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Furry mascot of Philippines forest lives on borrowed time

The tiny, furry tree-climber with the outsize, owl-like eyes pricked its ears and swivelled its head as a rustle on the forest floor ended its midday slumber.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Corella (philippines)
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2005 01:26 PM IST

The tiny, furry tree-climber with the outsize, owl-like eyes pricked its ears and swivelled its head as a rustle on the forest floor ended its midday slumber.

Carlito Pizarras, son of a taxidermist, had sneaked up so close he could smell the tarsier on its shady perch.

The midget mammal has been around since the Eocene Age, but 45 million years of evolution were hardly of any help against Bohol island's most famous game hunter.

Fortunately, Pizarras had given up his air gun, formaldehyde and the other awful tools of his trade some time in the 1970s and devoted the rest of his life to trying to save the exotic mascot of the Philippines' receding tropical forests.

"I began to notice that I had to hike deeper into the forest to find one, unlike in the 1960s when you could snatch them (off) tree branches by the side of the road," the 50-year-old told AFP at a tarsier reservation here.

The tarsier is found only in four islands in the central and southern Philippines and on several islands of nearby Indonesia.

Incorrectly regarded by Filipinos as the world's smallest "monkey", it is really a cousin of the lemur and the tree shrew.

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