Mysterious World of Tarsiers in the Philippines

Tarsiers have several unique physical features that distinguish them from other primates. For example, they have large eyes that are fixed in their sockets, meaning they cannot move their eyes. but they can easily turn their heads 90 degrees left and 90 degrees right. They also have long, thin fingers and toes with adhesive pads on the tips, allowing them to grasp onto branches and move effortlessly through trees. Tarsiers are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They are also famous for their distinctive vocalizations, which include a variety of high-pitched calls and chirps. There are currently 11 recognized species of tarsiers, all of which are known in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia

Tarsiers are small, nocturnal primates native to Southeast Asia. They belong to the family Tarsiidae and the genus Tarsius. Unfortunately, many species of tarsiers are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation and other human activities. Several conservation efforts are underway to protect these unique and fascinating primates and their habitats.


Tarsiers are small primates, typically weighing between 80 to 160 grams (2.8 to 5.6 ounces) and measuring around 8 to 16 centimeters (3.1 to 6.3 inches) in length. They have large, round heads with short snouts and large eyes that are about as large as their brain. Their fur is usually soft and dense and can range in color from grayish-brown to reddish-brown or even white. Tarsiers have large eyes relative to their body size because they are adapted to a nocturnal lifestyle. Large eyes allow them to gather as much available light as possible, which is important in the dim light of the forest at night. This enables them to see in low light conditions and locate their prey, such as insects and spiders, which they catch with their agile hands.

In addition to their large size, tarsier eyes have other adaptations that make them well-suited for nocturnal hunting. For example, their eyes are very sensitive to light and are able to detect even the slightest movements, which helps them locate prey. Their eyes are also immobile in their sockets, meaning they cannot move their eyes to look around like most other primates. Instead, they are able to rotate their heads nearly 180 degrees to scan their environment. Tarsiers' large eyes are an important adaptation that allows them to successfully navigate their nocturnal environment and hunt for prey.


Tarsiers are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep during the day. They are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their lives in trees and are well adapted to life in the forest canopy. They are also solitary, usually only coming together to mate. Tarsiers are agile and acrobatic, able to leap from tree to tree with ease thanks to their long hind legs and strong toes. During the day, tarsiers typically find a sheltered spot to rest, such as a tree hollow or dense foliage, and curl up to sleep. They may also use their excellent camouflage to blend into their surroundings and avoid predators.

During rainy weather, tarsiers may seek out shelter in the same way that they do during the day. However, because they are adapted to live in the forest canopy, they are generally well-protected from the rain by the dense foliage and tree cover above them. Tarsiers are also adapted to deal with colder temperatures, although they are typically found in tropical environments where temperatures are generally warm. They have dense fur to help keep them warm, and they may curl up together for warmth during particularly cold nights. It's worth noting that different species of tarsiers have different behaviors and adaptations depending on their specific habitat and ecological niche. However, as a general rule, tarsiers are active at night, rest during the day, and are adapted to deal with a variety of environmental conditions.

Shy and sensitive

Tarsiers are generally shy and elusive animals, and they tend to avoid humans and other animals whenever possible. This is partly due to their natural behavior as nocturnal and solitary animals, but it is also a result of the habitat destruction and hunting that has affected many tarsier populations. When tarsiers do encounter humans or other animals, they may become stressed or frightened and attempt to flee or hide. However, they are not naturally aggressive and are unlikely to attack unless they are cornered or feel threatened. It's worth noting that different species of tarsiers may have different levels of tolerance for human and other animal presence, depending on their specific habitat and the amount of human disturbance in the area. In some cases, tarsiers may become habituated to human presence if they are regularly exposed to people and do not feel threatened. However, in general, tarsiers are shy and elusive animals that prefer to avoid contact with humans and other animals whenever possible.

In the wild, tarsiers usually live for around 12-20 years, although some individuals have been known to live for up to 24 years. In captivity, tarsiers can live longer, with some individuals reaching ages of up to 25 years or more. However, the lifespan of tarsiers can vary depending on a number of factors, including their diet, habitat, and exposure to predators and other threats. In general, tarsiers that live in protected habitats with ample food and minimal human disturbance are likely to live longer than those that live in degraded or fragmented habitats where they may face more challenges to their survival.


As it was mentioned earlier, tarsiers are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They use their large eyes and excellent hearing to locate prey and can catch insects in mid-air with their quick reflexes. Tarsiers have a high metabolic rate and require a diet rich in protein and other nutrients to support their active lifestyle. As insectivores, they typically eat a variety of insects and other small invertebrates and may consume up to half their body weight in food each night. The exact amount of food that tarsiers require per day can vary depending on factors such as their body size, age, and activity level, as well as the availability of food in their environment. However, as a general rule, tarsiers typically require a diet that is high in protein and other nutrients to support their active lifestyle.

To digest their food, tarsiers have a simple digestive system that is adapted to their insectivorous diet. They lack a cecum, which is a specialized pouch found in some animals that aid in the digestion of tough plant material. Instead, tarsiers have a relatively short digestive tract that is optimized for the rapid breakdown and absorption of nutrients from their insect prey. Overall, tarsiers have a high energy requirement and require a diet that is rich in protein and other nutrients to support their active lifestyle. 

Tarsiers have a number of natural predators in their native habitats, including snakes, birds of prey, and carnivorous mammals such as cats and civets. Snakes are particularly dangerous for tarsiers because they are able to climb trees and enter the hollows where tarsiers sleep during the day. However, tarsiers are well adapted to avoiding predators through their excellent vision and leaping abilities. Their large eyes allow them to see well in low light conditions, which helps them detect potential threats, while their long legs and strong hindquarters allow them to jump quickly and accurately to escape danger.

In addition to natural predators, tarsiers also face threats from human activities, including habitat destruction and hunting. The destruction and fragmentation of their forest habitats can leave them more vulnerable by opening up previously inaccessible areas to predators. Hunting for food or capture for the pet trade is also a significant threat to their populations.

Whistle and squeak

Tarsiers produce a variety of sounds to communicate with each other. They have a number of vocalizations, including chirps, whistles, trills, and clicks, which they use to communicate a range of messages, including warnings, territorial displays, and mating calls. Tarsiers also use a variety of non-vocal communication methods, including body language and scent marking. They have well-developed scent glands on their genital areas and on their wrists, which they use to mark their territories and communicate with other tarsiers. They also use their large eyes and ear tufts to communicate with each other, with eye contact and ear movements conveying information about their intentions and emotions.

Overall, tarsiers have a complex communication system that allows them to interact with each other in their social and mating behaviors. However, because they are solitary animals and are primarily active at night, their communication is generally less complex than that of social primates like monkeys and apes.


Tarsiers are solitary animals, and mating typically occurs during the breeding season, which varies depending on the species and location. Males may compete for access to females, and courtship rituals can involve vocalizations, displays, and physical contact. After mating, female tarsiers have a gestation period of around six months, after which they give birth to a single offspring. Tarsier infants are born with fully-formed eyes and ears and are able to cling to their mother's fur within a few hours of birth. Mothers will typically carry their infants with them as they forage for food, and will nurse them for several months. 

Tarsier infants grow and develop quickly, and are able to move around on their own within a few weeks of birth. However, they remain dependent on their mother for several months, during which time they learn important skills such as hunting and navigation. Mothers may also teach their offspring vocalizations and other social behaviors that are important for communication and social interaction with other tarsiers. Tarsiers have a relatively simple social structure, and their offspring receive most of their education and socialization from their mother. As solitary animals, tarsiers typically do not form long-term social bonds, and young tarsiers are usually independent by the time they reach adulthood.


Many species of tarsiers are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation and other human activities. Some species have already become extinct, and others are classified as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Conservation efforts are underway to protect these unique and fascinating primates and their habitats, including the establishment of protected areas and the promotion of sustainable forest management practices. The Tarsier Sanctuary on Bohol Island in the Philippines is a conservation and educational facility dedicated to the protection and rehabilitation of tarsiers, as well as the promotion of tarsier conservation and education in the local community.

The sanctuary is located in the town of Corella and covers an area of around 167 hectares. It was established in 1997 in response to the declining population of tarsiers on Bohol Island due to habitat destruction and hunting. The sanctuary is run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect tarsiers and their habitats. The Tarsier Sanctuary is home to a number of tarsiers that have been rescued from the wild or donated by local residents. Visitors can hire a local private knowledgeable English-speaking tour guide in the Philippines to bring them on a personal tour to the sanctuary where they can observe these nocturnal primates in their natural habitat, and learn about their biology, behavior, and conservation status.

The sanctuary also plays an important role in tarsier conservation and education in the local community. It works closely with local government agencies, NGOs, and schools to promote awareness and conservation of tarsiers and their habitats. The sanctuary also offers training and employment opportunities for local residents and works to promote sustainable development practices that benefit both humans and wildlife. The Tarsier Sanctuary on Bohol Island is an important center for tarsier conservation and education and serves as a model for community-based conservation efforts in the Philippines and beyond.


Tarsiers are protected by international regulations, as well as by national and local laws in many countries where they occur. In particular, all species of tarsiers are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the international trade of wildlife and their products. Under CITES, the export of tarsiers and their parts is strictly controlled, and trade in wild-caught tarsiers is generally prohibited. In addition, many countries where tarsiers occur have laws that protect them from hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction.

However, despite these regulations, tarsiers continue to face a number of threats to their survival, including habitat loss, hunting, and capture for the pet trade. Continued conservation efforts, including habitat protection and education programs, are necessary to ensure the long-term survival of these unique and important primates. Tarsiers are wild animals and are not suitable for domestication. They are nocturnal, solitary, and have very specific dietary and environmental requirements, which make them extremely difficult to care for in captivity.

In addition, tarsiers are protected by international and national laws, and it is illegal to capture or keep them as pets in many countries where they occur. The illegal pet trade in tarsiers is a significant threat to their survival, as it often involves the capture of wild animals, which can lead to population declines and even extinction in some cases. Furthermore, tarsiers are not social animals and do not form long-term bonds with humans or other animals, which means that they do not benefit from being kept in captivity. In fact, captivity can be extremely stressful and damaging to their physical and mental health, and can even lead to premature death.

Overall, tarsiers are wild animals and should be appreciated and protected in their natural habitats. Efforts to conserve their populations and their habitats, as well as education programs to raise awareness about their importance and conservation needs, are essential for their survival.


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