EFFORTS ON TO SAVE TARSIER EXSISTENCE
Gift to Prince Charles returns to own environment
Just as some of us prepare to say goodbye to the year that was and look forward to the start of the new year, a celebrated member of the animal world prepares to embark on a new beginning.
Charlie, the cuddly Philippine tarsier presented to Britain’s Prince Charles during his visit last year , is about to be set free anytime now.
Charlie is one of only 20 tarsiers the smallest monkeys in the world found in the Philippines, which have been bred in captivity. After seven months with keeper Carlito Pizarras, Charlie is ready to join other tarsiers inhabiting the forest of Corella in Bohol.
But before rejoining his relatives, the tarsier basked in the spotlight for the last time when Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor flew to Bohol to keynote the groundbreaking of the Tarsier Sanctuary of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.
Charlie gamely posed for Photographers in the shoulders of Miss Gabor, who called him Datu Charlie to reflect the royal lineage of his namesake.
People present during the groundbreaking were so taken by the Tarsier’s quiet and sweet demeanor that many had to suppress the urge to ask for a Tarsier as souvenir, Guests had to settle for Tarsier dolls instead.
Mr. Pizarras explained that under ordinary circumstances, Charlie would not be allowed to interact with visitors as Tarsiers are very sensitive and react to stress destructively.
It’s just for the sake of posterity and promoting awareness to the plight of the Philippine tarsiers that Charlie was put in the glare of flash bulbs.
Mr. Pizarras admitted that unlike other tarsiers, Charlie is not reticent. “Tarsiers bash their heads when subjected to stress. That is why very few survive in captivity, he said.
Charlie may have adapted very well to the presence of humans because he was subjected to our scrutiny ever since he was a baby.
Members of the foundation recalled that during Prince Charles’s visit the original plan was to present Charlie’s family. But at the last minute Charlie’s parents threw tantrums and would not leave their cages.
It was decided to just put Charlie in a basket and present him to the Prince. Back then, he was just known as the tarsier which was photographed with the Prince. When he was taken back to Bohol, the people of Corella christened him Charlie.
Sandy Diez, a member of the foundation, said the Prince regularly receives an update on the development of Charlie.
But even if Charlie was weaned by his parents, which occupied a nearby cage, the care given by Mr. Pizarras has rised questions on Charlie’s ability to survive on his own in the forest.
Charlie will be fitted with a tag but no monitoring device has been put in place to track his movements. The officers of the foundation can only hope that Charlie’s natural habitat would not be cruel to the young tarsier.
The tarsier is often called the world’s smallest monkey because of its obvious similarities with the primate. It’s ear resemble those of bats. Viewed from the back, however, the tarsier looks like a big mouse with its long tail.
However, a characteristic unique to it is the size of its eyes – twice that of humans but incapable of seeing from the corners. Its head can rotate up to 180 degrees which allows it to leap backward with precision.
The tarsier actually belong to the more primitive suborder called prosimian, and is the oldest land species in continous existence in the country. Scientist estimate the tarsiers to have existed for around 45 million years.
Boholanos recounted that there were several thousands of tarsiers living in the forest in the 60’s.10*34
That number sits down to just around 700 tarsiers in Bohol’s forest.
Ironically, the biggest bane to the tarsier’s existence is the alley cat. “Cats probably hunt for tarsiers because of their similarity with rats and because it is small,” said Mr. Pizarras.
Collectors have also taken aim at the shy creatures. Some say that tarsiers retail for P600 in Binondo.
However, tarsiers are not to be taken as pets. They do not warm up easily and tend to hurt themselves. When provoked, they can inflict painful bites. They are also quite frigid, mating only once a year without copulating which also explains why the population is dwinding.
To save the tarsier population, the foundation is building a P10-million sanctuary in Corella. The group was granted a P1-million fund by the Department of tourism to get the project rolling.
The foundation is planning to build a visitor complex built around a 15- kilometer tarsier trail. Also along the premises, a library, veterinary clinic and conference rooms will be erected.
Foundation Chairman Anos Fonacier said the group already has received numerous pledges from concerned parties but it still in need of additional funding to support its three year project costing around P27 million.
He hopes that by providing enough ecotourism projects in the area, the tarsier population will continue to grow.
Three years from now, visitors may just get a wave from Charlie and his brood when they come
Source: Business World January 29, 1998