Monday, September 24, 2007

TARSIERS - people, leave them alone

Tarsiers are primates, mammals closely related to lemurs, monkeys, apes, and people.
They live in southeast Asia, in rainforests and bamboo forests in the Philippines and Indonesia and are arboreal, spending their entire life in trees. Tarsiers cannot walk on land; they hop when they are on the ground.
Anatomy: Tarsiers have enormous eyes, a long tail, and pads at the ends of each of their fingers and toes that let them climb trees very well. Their large eyes are excellent at seeing at night, but do not work well in daylight. The tarsier's neck is extremely flexible and can turn almost 360°. It can also move its ears to help locate prey. Tarsiers range from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) long but their long tail adds another 5 to 11 inches (13 to 28 cm) of length. They are about the size of a squirrel.
These territorial animals mark their trees with urine.
Tarsiers are carnivores (meat-eaters)-tarsiers are the only primates that are completely carnivorous; they eat mostly insects, lizards, worms, and other very small animals.
They are nocturnal, most active at night.
Gestation takes about six months, and tarsiers give birth to single offspring.
Fossils of tarsiers and tarsiiform primates are found in Asia, Europe, and North America.
They also have the longest continuous fossil record of any primate genus, and the fossil record indicates that their dentition hasn't changed much, except in size, in the past 45 million years. For the past 45 million years, tarsiers have inhabited rainforests around the world, but now they only exist on a few islands in the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia.
Tarsiers have never formed successful breeding colonies in captivity, and when caged, tarsiers have been known to injure and even kill themselves because of the stress.
The Philippine Tarsier was a common sight in the southern part of the island until the 1960s. Since then, the number has dwindled to as few as an estimated 1000 still left in the wild. Due to the quickly growing human population, which causes more and more forests to be converted to farmland, housing areas and roads, the place where the Philippine Tarsier can live its secluded life is disappearing. These mysterious primates struggle to survive as their home is cleared for crop growing.
Hunting tarsiers to sell as pets was until recently, a thriving industry. Because of its adorable and benign appearance, many have been lured to keep the Philippine Tarsier as pets. This demand fuels the capture and illegal trade of the animal further diminishing its remaining number.
The life span is 24 years when living in the wild, but only 12 when in cages and taken cared of by people. It is also known to die from psychological damage when around humans because its instinct is to be out in the wild. Moreover, its reduced life span in captivity is due to the fact that it is easily distressed by being displayed and physically handled during the day contrary to its natural biological rhythm.
Tarsiers rarely live long in captivity. It has been reported that some tarsiers were so traumatized by captivity that they committed suicide by beating their heads against the cages or drowning themselves on the drinking bowls.
Paradoxically, indigenous superstition coupled with relatively thick rainforest, particularly in Sarangani province, have apparently preserved this endangered species. Indigenous tribes leave the Philippine Tarsiers in the wild because they fear that these animals could bring bad luck. One belief passed down from ancient times is that they are pets belonging to spirits dwelling in giant fig trees, known as belete trees. If someone harms a tarsier they need to apologise to the spirits of the forest, or it’s thought they will encounter sickness or hardship in life

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