There’s monkey business on Bohol!

by Ronnie Hoyle

IF YOU thought that all Tarsiers look the same; it’s time to think again! They are just as individual as people themselves. Just like their big brothers – us humans – they all have different faces, and even different fingerprints and toe prints, just like us. And, just like us, they all have many different and individual characteristics. It’s probably where Walt Disney found his seven dwarfs, each with their own odd little moods!

Unfortunately, Filipinos like to boast that tarsiers are indigenous only to Bohol and are found nowhere else in the world, which is simply not true.

Bohol may be the best-known home of the tarsiers, but they can also be found in some other places in the Far East, including several of the islands of Indonesia, throughout Borneo, Sabah and Sulawesi. There is also a spectral tarsier which his known for its olive markings on its body and black markings on its head and face…so someone on Bohol must be up to a little bit of monkey business if they expect us to believe that the Philippines is their only known home!
Since they have all bred in isolation for millions of years, there are a great many differences between the colonies and those that are found in Bohol are known to science as the Philippine tarsier, part of the Tarsiidae family. Tarsiers are the only living representatives of a primitive group of primates that ultimately led to monkeys, apes, and then humans.

Bohol has by far the largest known population in the Philippines, but even in the Philippines they can also be found in isolated pockets on Leyte and Mindanao, and probably in some of the more remote and heavily forested parts in the south of Cebu Island itself.
They are, however, classified as one of the worlds’ endangered species.

In Bohol, they are looked after by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, which has its home and study centre at Corella, just a few kilometres outside of Tagbilaran, and visitors are always welcome to drop in at any time.

You can learn a lot about these tiny creatures – all under six inches long, but with a tail longer than their bodies – from the resident wardens who are pleased to take visitors into their sanctuary area among secondary growth forests.

Regrettably, some local people on Bohol keep tarsiers in cages beside the Loboc River as an attraction to tourists and a source of revenue, although local Governor Eriko Aumentado is trying to dissuade them from doing so because tarsiers are prone to die under stress, which includes too much handling by human beings and being kept awake in the daytime when they should be sleeping.

For more information on these furry-bodied creatures, just call up the e-mail on They are usually brownish-grey in colour, with large, rounded heads, the most conspicuous features of which are enormous, eyes adapted for the animals' nocturnal life-style.

The muzzle is short, and the ears are long and rounded. The hind limbs are especially modified for leaping. The fingers and toes are extremely long and are equipped with fleshy disks that provide traction. The tail is long and ends in a tuft of hair.
These cute little alien-looking creatures are arboreal and forage for food in the treetops after dusk, usually insects (they love a grasshopper or two for crunchy quick snacks!) together with some frogs and lizards for added protein.

They can also turn their heads 180 degrees in any direction to see behind themselves and also leap backwards with precision over a distance of more than two meters. They are normally solitary creatures, meeting only for mating, which takes place throughout the year.

If you are on Bohol call (038) 235-5583 or 0914-874-1120 to make an appointment with the man who knows more than anyone else, Lito Pizarrus, foundation field manager, who began his interest when he was a small boy roaming the forests of Bohol.
He can tell you a great deal more about these primates which emerged in the Oligocene Epoch, 38 million to 24 million years ago…which also means that the islands of Bohol and Panglao must have existed that far back in time as well!