It’s more fun for tarsiers in Mindanao



Move over, Bohol. A new tarsier sanctuary that promises less stress for the endangered primates is rising in Mindanao.

The Endangered Species International (ESI), a San Francisco-based conservation group, is working with the B’laan tribe on Mount Matutum in South Cotabato to establish a tarsier conservation center on the slopes of the mountain and to protect the forest.

The project aims to provide jobs and bolster the pride of the B’laan, while preserving the hardwood forest on Mt. Matutum, which is under threat from commercial plantations, said ESI president Pierre Fidenci.

Fidenci, a Frenchman who first traveled to the Philippines in 2001, said the tarsier population in South Cotabato could be bigger than that in Bohol because of the size of the area.

“We are still collecting data on the population,” he said. Bohol has some 700 tarsiers, according to the Tarsier Foundation.

Tarsiers, one of the world’s smallest primates, are among the top draws of Bohol that established a conservation center in the town of Corella in 1996.

Red list

Tarsiers have been placed on the red list of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which says their forest habitats are being swallowed by logging, mining, agriculture and other activities.

The ESI says the conservation center will be managed with the B’laan, who know the forest and the behavior of the tarsiers like the back of their hands. It expects the facility to be up and running next year.

Fidenci said the center would put up mountain trails that may be used to educate the public on how the tarsiers live and to make them understand the value of mountain forests.

There will be a wide enclosure where the public may observe the animals through a telescope.

“They can have a walk through the trails in the protected area, maybe learn about medicinal plants. Then they can go down to the tarsier conservation center,” Fidenci said. “There is definitely a tourism potential here.”

Nocturnal animals

Fidenci said the conservation center would not take the tarsiers out of the wild.

He disapproved the parading the nocturnal animals to visitors during the day as the practice stresses them, he said.

Aside from managing the sanctuary, the B’laan can create souvenir items or engage in organic farming.

Fidenci said this would give the people a sense of pride for their place and work.

The ESI president said the project would use tarsier conservation as the jumping point for the conservation of Matutum.

“People,” he said, “love the tarsier,” which he described as an “iconic” animal.

“We want to regain the forest … In the end, we will also be protecting other plants and species,” he added.

Another endangered species, the monkey-eating Philippine eagle, was sighted on Mt. Matutum a few years ago.

Fidenci said his group hoped that the rehabilitation of the area would entice other species to come back.

Pineapples, bananas

The slopes of Matutum have been deforested and planted with pineapples and bananas over the years.

The mountain has a forest reserve of 14,000 hectares, but only 3,000 ha comprise primary old-growth forest, data from the Birdlife International show.

The ESI and the municipality of Tupi have started the first phase of the project.

The group is educating the B’laan about the potential of the sanctuary and as wildlife volunteers, Fidenci said.

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  • VitaRich

    This new tarsier sanctuary will NOT gain popularity to our international tourist, at best probably only with our own local tourists and wildlife enthusiasts. Mindanao is internationally perceived as a dangerous place. Although terrorist and kidnapping incidents are only isolated on parts of Mindanao, the whole large island is being dragged into this decade-long problem with the MILF or Abu Sayyaf or simply Muslims separatist groups. Kawawa ang Mindanao, grabe ang potential ng islang ito!

  • Cynthia

    The aim of the project is mainly to preserve the tarsiers not to show them off to tourists so Mindanao is the place for it and their natural habitat can be protected.  It is okay to view them along a trail and through a telescope, wonderful!   In that way it is truly more fun for the tarsiers in Mindanao than in Bohol.  Congratulations to Bohol though for their “man-made forest” other than of course the beautiful Chocolate Hills!  We are blessed with natural beauty and we just have to preserve them, keep them clean, and continue our efforts in educating the public.  Parents start with your children – do not throw garbage around, keep them with you until you see a garbage bin or you reach home to dispose it!

  • Life Guard

    Good luck to you guys on this project. There’s definitely a lot of discipline involved in getting these things done and what we have here in Bohol is definitely unachievable had it not for the strong support we have for each other. So my piece of advice is work together, think of the future, let everyone understand the common goal…because in the end all of you will reap something good.

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