there are tarsiers in Sarangani
N. Ramos, Jr.
Province (special to MindaNews/4 April 2002) -- A member of the
Provincial Tourism Council here had insisted that the
endangered tarsiers, often associated with Bohol province,
is endemic to this predominantly coastal province.
But other members
merely shrugged off the claim, until March 30, when a
B'laan farmer brought a pair of tarsiers to the house of
the PTC chair in Barangay Malandag here.
The presence of
tarsiers (tarsius syrichta) was news for officials, but
not for the Lumads, who had always known that this tiny
wide-eyed animal they call "mal" and which they
are prohibited to catch or even touch, has been a fixture
in most towns here for decades.
But B'laan Tinong
Lagsila had to show proof, that, indeed, there are
tarsiers in his birthplace in Purok Ariston, near the
"Bata pa ko,
kakita na ko ana kung mag-adto mi sa uma uban sa akong
tatay," (I have seen them since I was small, each
time I go to the farm with my father), said Lagsila, now
in his 40s.
kung magsiga ilang mata kay maayo mutanom. Kung piyong
ilang mata dili mi mutanom" (we watch out when their
eyes open because that's a good sign for planting (crops).
If their eyes are closed, we don't plant.)
four to six inches in height, are nocturnal creatures. By
day, tarsiers sleep in hollows close to the ground, dense
vegetation and trees, Lagsila said. His dog found the
pair, a male and a female, huddled together under
vegetation at 10 o'clock in the evening.
nako dakpon kay dili namo sila ginahilabtan. Bawal,"
(I would not have captured them because we are not
supposed to touch them. It's not allowed), he added.
It is not certain
as yet if there are, indeed, more tarsiers in Sarangani
than in Bohol or if the species here is the same as
Bohol's. The Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) provincial office here has yet to provide
volunteered information when word broke out that tarsiers
exist in Sarangani province.
inhabit a vast rainforest in barangay Upo, Maitum. The
area, where a two-hectare Agricultural Research Center is
located, is the habitat of tarsiers, according to Perido
Kusin, a T'boli college graduate.
tarsiers, also called mal in T'boli, were left untouched
in the wild because they could bring bad luck. "When
we were children, we were told not to look straight into
the eyes of mal because we might see its tears fall and
that could mean accident or even death," he said.
"We were told not no take them as pets. It's
Malungon is the
only landlocked town in this seven-town coastal province,
while Maitum is its westernmost town. The presence of
tarsiers appears to be province-wide because Lumads in
Glan, the last town in the east coast, also reported
sightings in lowland and coastal barangays.
barangay Laguimit near Mt. Gulo, the highest peak in Glan,
confirmed that mal still live in the nearby jungle when
shown pictures of the Malungon tarsiers.
1970's, katong wala pa kaayo na-clear ang area dinhi,
adunay mga mal nga makit-an dinhi pero hinay-hinay na sila
ug pamalhin sa Gulo katong nidaghan na ang namuyo
nganhi," (In the 1970s, when the area was not yet
cleared [for housing and farming], we would see tarsiers
here but they slowly moved up to Gulo when more people
came to settle here) said Jovencio Bag, a former barangay
captain. Mt. Gulo is about seven kilometers from the
Ricardo Roque, Jr. said tarsiers are endemic to Mt. Gulo.
Roque said he had a captive female and a young which died
recently. "Murag nakaka-on ug asin. Among gipa-anod
sa sapa." (They apparently ate salt. We had them
float down the river).
Accounts of tarsier
encounters also came from barangays Alegado, Margus,
Kaltuad, Congan, Lago and Tango in Glan; Malabod and
Buayan Riverside in Malungon; Bagacay and Paraiso in
Alabel; Sapu Masla in Malapatan; Lumoyon in Kiamba, and
Barangay Upo in Maitum, some 20 minutes from the
poblacion; and in Maasim town.
along with relatively thick forestal areas in this
province facing the Celebes Sea, have apparently led to
the preservation of the endangered species here.
But Governor Miguel
Escobar said he would push for local legislation to
declare the known tarsier habitats in the province as
large, goggling eyes and a round head that can be rotated
180 degrees. The ears are large, membranous, and almost
constantly in motion. Tarsiers are 4-6 in. long; the thin
tufted tail about twice that length serves as a balancer
and prop. The gray to dark brown fur is thick and silky.
Tarsiers cling vertically to trees and leap from trunk to
trunk. They have greatly elongated hind limbs and disklike
adhesive pads on the digit tips. Tarsiers prey mainly on
insects, according to The Britannica Concise.
the world's smallest monkey, it is neither a monkey or
even the smallest primate. Being a primate, it is part of
the group of mammals that includes lemurs, monkeys,
gorillas and man. Scientists say the tarsier falls
somewhere between the lemurs and monkeys on the
Tarsius syrichta is
found in the rainforests of the East Indies, from Sumatra
to the Philippines and Sulawesi. This species is most
commonly found on Samar, Leyte, Bohol, and Mindanao.
tarsier is found in areas of tall grasses, bushes, bamboo
shoots, and small trees in tropical rainforests. They
enjoy the canopy of the jungle, leaping from tree to tree.
On June 23, 1997,
President Fidel V. Ramos issued Proclamation No. 1030,
declaring the Philippine tarsier "a specially
protected faunal species of the Philippines."
preservation of the Philippine tarsier is a matter of
national concern since it forms part of the Philippine
heritage," the Proclamation read.
said the Philippine tarsier is "vanishing due to
unabated destructive activities within its known
habitats" and declared that "hunting, killing,
wounding, taking away, possession of the Philippine
tarsier and the conduct of activites destructive of its
habitats" are prohibited. But the possession of the
Philippine Tarsier for educational, scientific or
conservation-centered research purposes "maybe
allowed upon certification by the DENR Secretary."
Delena, Provincial Legal Officer, said a provincial
ordinance could be passed prohibiting the exploitation and
capture of the endangered species and their habitat should
be protected also. He said the ordinance could be adopted
by the municipalities and barangays so that "people
will be aware of the importance and will be appreciative
that this specie exists in the province."
that barangays should get involved "for they are the
ones who have discovered this (except that) they don't
know the importance or value of this species. So if this
can be tackled/discussed in the (ABC) Association of
Barangay Captains meeting and photos of the tarsiers can
be shown, we could identify easily the barangays in the
province where this species exists. We will also know the
nature of its habitat if denuded, it can be reforested
based on a resolution."
Delena said there
is "a need for every municipality to pass an
ordinance for the protection and preservation of tarsier
with penalty clause."
that once the capture of this species is not in accordance
with the study, conservation, protection of tarsier but
for mere exploitation like out of pleasure-trip, then the
ordinance must have sanctions either fine and imprisonment
or both at the discretion of the court."
"This is not
only to regulate but also to make them feel once there is
a case filed that capturing this specie for pleasure-trip
is not good," he said.
Delena added that
tarsier habitats must be declared by DENR as protected
areas and local government units "must also enact a
measure to protect the area since the Proclamation is too
[Serafin Ramos, Jr.
is provincial information officer of Sarangani]