Tarsier, ‘icon of PH tourism,’ sought out as pets–foundation
Growing popularity and association with a top tourist destination in the country drive people to take them away from their natural habitat and make them their pets, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. (PTFI),said Friday after the death of a second tarsier rescued in Quezon City.
PTFI program manager Joannie Mary Cabillo said in an exclusive phone interview with Inquirer.net that “the tarsier is becoming very famous. It’s already a tourism icon, and an icon of the Philippines.”
“There are places where you can get tarsiers, not just (the tourist crowd-drawer) Bohol but also Mindanao. There could not be any place in Metro Manila where they can thrive, so most of them will likely be brought in for the pet trade,” she added.
The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) said they rescued another tarsier found in a box in a Quezon City bus terminal on Tuesday.
The tarsier died Thursday. The cause of death was still not clear, but PAWB Director Mundita Lim said it was not eating much when they took care of it.
“People are interested in having tarsiers as pets and because of of this, there are many poachers who sell them to interested buyers,” Cabillo said.
On June 21, a tarsier was rescued in the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City, but it died five days later.
Cabillo said the people who brought these tarsiers from their natural habitats in the Visayas and Mindanao region either sell them or keep them as pets.
“That’s the only thing we can think of. And it’s something that involves money,” Cabillo added. “Tarsiers are very very popular, that’s why they’re there in Manila. That would not happen if they’re not popular.”
The Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta), which is endemic only to the country, should be kept in their natural habitat, Cabillo said, citing the benefits it brings to the growing eco-tourism industry.
“Actually, they’re very boring animals if they are kept as pets. They just sit around and sleep all day, and at night, they like to travel and hunt,” she added, citing their nocturnal nature.
Saying that tarsiers are not the only endemic species in the Philippines hunted down by poachers, Cabillo stressed that government officials should be more strict in the enforcement of environment and wildlife regulations.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Philippine tarsier as a “Near Threatened” species, citing a population decline over the last 20 years, habitat loss, and “harvesting for the pet trade.”
“It is heavily harvested as food and especially for the pet trade. This is illegal, but there are recent anecdotal reports that the pet markets in Manila are being flooded with tarsiers retailing at less than P500 each,” the IUCN said on its website.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.