I always had the romantic notion of finding these elusive creatures in the middle of some jungle in Borneo. This obsession has been there for a few years and since then, wanted to visit Bohol island, Philippines – the land of Tarsiers.
You would so lucky to even catch a glimpse of this inspiration for the Gremlins in the wild. Here in Bohol, Philippines, tarsiers are mostly captive, easily found, brings in the tourist dollar to the island. This animal use to be so plentiful back in the 1960s-1980s, that large numbers of them were often drive over by vehicles without much regard.
What are they?
The tarsiers are tiny primates and not monkeys! They are nocturnal and feeds mainly on live insects. They are found in the Philippines and Borneo close proximity around the islands of Sulu Sea.
The Philippines tarsiers can fit onto your palm, cute big eyes, adorable with ears that can turn 180 degrees.
I had the opportunity to find these captive tarsiers in Sagbayan Peak and the Tarsier Sanctuary. These sensitive nocturnal primates do not survive long in captivity as they get highly stressed by hoards of tourists visiting during the day.
It has become a tourist industry, caged tarsiers all over Bohol in so-called sanctuaries. Most of these fake sanctuaries have a donation box at the entrance, by pretending to be non-profit, they get away with keeping the poor tarsiers as cash crops. They however collect compulsory entrance fee from tourists on the side. These fake places allow you hand hold these highly sensitive creatures that are easily stressed by handling. These poor tarsiers lead quite a miserable life and do not live long, so stay away from these places.
While I am not so sure about the tarsier sanctuary in Sagbayan Peak, the Tarsier Sanctuary Foundation in Corella, Bohol do help to protect these adorable animals.
Tarsier Sanctuary, Corella – this cute little gremlin winked at me!
The Tarsier Sanctuary – A very slow Sunday where not many tourists visited so was blessed with having a personal tour by the keeper. It was a shaded public enclosure with only 20 of these nocturnal primates. 5 minutes into the search, I was greeted up close by this tarsier which was probably used to hoards of tourists. Quite shocked that it was so tamed, allowed me to stand pretty close to it. It looked straight at me, eyes opened staring at me for quite a while, before getting bored. The keeper hurried me along to find another tarsier. Unfortunately it was raining and most of them were hiding up in the trees.
This was the only tarsier I saw in the sanctuary but I was happy to have photograph one of the cutest animal in the world. It’s much cuter than Gizmo from Gremlins.
Where to find these Tarsiers
45mins from Tubigon port has a large shaded enclosure with 2 tarsiers. The caged enclosure is at the entrance of the Park. You get greeted by a donation box, but no one asked for any cash. The security guard was pretty happy to show me the poor tarsiers by shaking the covered tree with these two hapless tarsiers jumping in fright. The ethusiatic guard had wanted to drag these pair of tarsiers down for me, I declined and left within 5 mins.
Tarsier Sanctuary at Corella
This is the recommended option, where the foundation helps protect the tarsiers by preserving a large forested area. They keep about 20 tarsiers in a large enclosure for the tourists and you will definately be able to spot one within a few minutes, not unless it rains.
Buses can be taken from Dao Terminal (Island City Mall) in Tagbilaran, Bohol but be prepared to walk should you get off at Corella town. Make sure you tell the driver to drop you off near the entrance of the sanctuary.