If there were only one word that could be associated to Bohol and both “chocolate” and “hills” were preemptively excluded, the word would definitely have to be tarsiers. Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, which means that they only come out during night time. They are extremely small creatures that are frequently found all over Bohol and in some places in Leyte, Samar and Mindanao. This ancient creature that dates back to as far as 45 million years ago is the oldest terrestrial specie in the country. In order to protect such delicate creatures, the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary was erected in Bohol.
Built by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, the tarsier sanctuary was established in 1996 with 167 hectares that go across Corella, Sikatuna and Loboc of Bohol. The non-stock and non-profit organization’s main goal was to conserve as well as promote the tarsier creatures of Bohol. These towns were strategically chosen to become the sanctuary sites as numerous sighting of the tarsiers have been found within the forests of these towns. This was also the place where these creatures used to be hunted down, captured and then eventually sold to local and foreign visitors. Today, the sanctuary is the only place in the Philippines that can legally hold tarsiers.
The best thing about the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is that the creatures are allowed to live freely and reproduce as in their natural environment. Majority of the sanctuary has lush shrubbery that is mostly made up of second-growth trees, tall grass pieces, bamboo clumps and the thick bushes that tarsiers seem to prefer. Pathways and trails are spread across the sanctuary for visitors’ use so that the tarsiers can be observed in their natural habitat. Wounding, poaching and killing of the tarsiers are strictly prohibited as is the destruction of their habitat. Possession of a tarsier for education, research or scientific purposes can only be allowed upon the strict approval and certification of the DENR Secretary.
The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary offers a portion of the haven that is separate from the dense forest where the tarsiers are rehabilitated. Visitors can opt to see these nocturnal animals up close in their different poses as they (the tarsiers, to be clear) lounge on a branch, swing from the tree trunk or just stroll around the fenced area.
A research facility is in the process of construction and will be fully equipped with a veterinary clinic, laboratory, library, private offices and conference rooms, staff quarters and a storage room. The sanctuary also expects to accommodate visiting scientists and technicians of the sanctuary.
Visitors should always stop by the information center of the sanctuary located at Corella to be able to attain useful details about the fragile creatures. They can also observe a variety of flora and fauna around the forest with their scientific names, place of origin, geographical distribution and an explanation for their properties and functions. Tarsier shirts, toys, books, pictures and even a replica of the sanctuary and a partial skeleton of the creature can be found at the sanctuary’s souvenir shop.
Know that seeing a tarsier in the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary up close will require a lot of luck and patience. But if you are lucky enough to see one, you will surely gaze upon the delicate and small creature with great awe and amazement.