Two large tarsier colonies found in Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Environment officials are excited by the recent discovery of tarsier colonies in two areas in southern Mindanao.
Joselin Marcus Fragada, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Southern Mindanao, said the discovery has effectively disproved the general belief that the haplorrine primates thrive only in Bohol even though s few of them have been found in Sarangani, and in South and North Cotabato.
Tarsiers are called haplorrine because, like humans, they have dry noses. The opposite of haplorrine is strepsirrhine, to which dogs and cats belong.
Fragada said quite large tarsier colonies were found in Barangay Bobon in Mati, Davao Oriental, and in Barangay Suaon in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
It has been confirmed,” he said.
Tarsiers have occassionally been seen in Sarangani province, in South Cotabato and in the mountainous parts of North Cotabato. However, environment officials dismissed the tarsier populations there as insignificant.
However, in the two Davao provinces, Fragada said, the tarsier populations are such that the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Division (PAWD) plans a population count.
He said that in the Kapalong area, PAWD will conduct the assessment and population count with the non-government group Davao Speleological and Conservation Society (DSpeCS).
“They will soon start the population count to serve as basis of the management plan to protect the threatened species,” he said.
The Philippine Tarsier (scientific name Tarsius syrichta), is one of the smallest known primates. Its length from the top of the head to the tip of the feet (not counting the tail) is only 118-149 millimeters and weighs between 113 and 142 grams. In fact, it is no larger than an adult man’s hand. The males are generally larger than females.
Living on a diet of insects, the creature is mostly active at night. Although tarsiers have inhabited rainforests around the world in the past 45 million years, only a few remaining species exist on a few islands in the Philippines and Indonesia at present, prompting the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to place the species on its red list.
The IUCN conservation monitoring center first assessed the Philippine tarsier as endangered in 1986, a status which continued has persisted following more assessments in 1988, 1990 and 2000.
“The IUCN continuously listed the Philippine tarsier as endangered species, putting it on its red list category,” Fragada said.
A number of laws have been passed to protect and conserve the Philippine tarsiers, among them, DENR’s Administrative Order No. 48, which included the primate among other protected and endangered animals.
Republic Act No. 7586, also known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act of 1991, even mandates the establishment of appropriate sanctuaries to preserve and protect the Philippine tarsier.
There was also Proclamation 1030, which was issued by President Fidel Ramos on June 23, 1997, that prohibited the hunting, killing, wounding, taking away or possession of the Philippine tarsier, except for educational, scientific, and conservation-centered research purposes.
Fragada said despite these laws, the tarsier population continues to diminish because “the growing human population has led to the conversion of more forests into farmlands, and it remains the biggest threat to the Philippine tarsiers.”
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