Bohol Bans Picture-taking with Tarsiers

The Bohol provincial council has finally taken action to protect its most priced attraction, the tarsiers, through an ordinance that allows the viewing of these unique creatures only at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, Bohol. Tarsier in CaptivityThe 167-hectare sanctuary offers an ideal habitat for the tarsiers, which are commonly found in verdant forests where they hunt for small insects for food.

Tarsiers are in the list of endangered species, and the action of the Bohol provincial government is very much welcome. I remember going to Bohol in 2007 and finding tarsier viewing in Loboc and Loay. The tarsiers in these places are in cages that are big enough for people to enter. There are small trees inside the cages for the tarsiers to perch onto. Picture-taking is also encouraged, so you can see a lot of tourists flocking the cages to get a glimpse of, or may be even touch, the tarsiers.

I’m sure we all take pleasure from having our pictures taken with them. But if we really think about it, hearing all kinds of noises, getting blinded by flash bulbs and seeing animals (read: humans) that are not of their species must not be their idea of fun. To say that they’d prefer to be sleeping during the day, since they are nocturnal, is an understatement.

The tarsier population in the Philippines has been slowly dwindling because their natural habitat is being destroyed by unabated illegal logging and the practice of the traditional slash-and-burn agriculture. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that tarsiers are typically shy creatures. Because of their fragile psyche, tarsiers tend to be suicidal when they experience extreme stress, which can come from constantly being touched and being disturbed by too much noise.

The tarsier is one of the main tourist attractions of Bohol. But the fact is that there are not many tarsiers out there. And if actions to protect them are not taken now, we may find ourselves going to museums to marvel and gawk at these unique mammals, instead of experiencing and seeing firsthand how they live and interact with others of their kind in their natural habitat.