Philippine Tarsier Foundation

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Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc.
Type Environmental
Founded April 17, 1996, Philippines
Headquarters Flag of the PhilippinesTagbilaran City & Corella, Bohol, Philippines
Key people
Jesus Alvarez
Fr. Florante S. Camacho, SVD
Anos Fonacier
Richard Uy
Marlito Uy
Mina Gabor
Lobbying, research, consultancy

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Incorporated (PTFI) is a non-profit, non-stock corporation based in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, established in 1996 to conserve, promote research and establish a sanctuary for the Philippine Tarsier. It is an entirely private sector initiative, but has strong support from two leading organizations in conservation and eco-tourism -- namely the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism (DOT). To ensure the continued existence of the Philippine tarsier, the Foundation is attempting to bring tourism to the province of Bohol in a way that is ecologically friendly to the tarsier.<ref>Philippine Tarsier Foundation Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref>

Organized by local businessmen in Bohol, the foundation runs a 7.4-hectare (20.7-acre) sanctuary or forest reservation, nestled within a larger protected forest where about a thousand other Philippine tarsiers are believed to live, protected by a permanent logging ban. At the reservation, visitors can observe the Philippine tarsier in its natural habitat, in an enclosure, or conduct research at the Philippine Tarsier Research and Development Center. Here, researchers fitting temporary radio collars helped establish the animals' breeding and eating habits as well as their territorial ranges.<ref>Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed timeAgence France-Presse Retrieved 18 November 2006. </ref>



In 1991, the DENR, through Administrative Order No. 38, included the Philippine tarsier among the national protected wildlife species and proposed its listing under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In addition, the World Conservation Union/SSC Primate Specialist Group had given the species Conservation Priority Rating 4, which means that the species is highly vulnerable and threatened by habitat destruction and/or hunting.

In 1996, concerned citizens in the province of Bohol invited Mr. Jesus Alvarez, former director of the Parks and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR, to visit. He immediately saw the need for a more organized effort to halt the continuing decline of the indigenous tarsier population. Alvarez was one of the country's pioneers in the nature conservancy field who was instrumental in bringing the plight of the Philippine eagle to international attention. This started the tarsier conservation movement.

Following the visit, Alvarez proposed an initial program of work in that direction with the following major recommendations:

  • establish a body to assume overall responsibility for the planned drive
  • define the parameters of the effort and the role the said body would play therein
  • move for the declaration of the Philippine tarsier as an especially protected species by the president of the Philippines
  • identify an appropriate site for designation as a sanctuary for the species.

Alvarez also specified four main areas of activity that the organization would concentrate on: habitat management and protection; community organization and management; research on the ecology and biology of the tarsier; and ecotourism.

Accordingly, on April 17, 1996, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. was registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission. On November 4, 1996, the foundation transmitted a formal request to the DENR for the preparation and conclusion of a memorandum of agreement charging the foundation with the implementation of the Philippine Tarsier Conservation Program. Five months later, on April 1, 1997, the program came into effect. Then, on May 27, 1997, in recognition of her keen interest in environmental concerns throughout the country, the foundation invited Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor to serve as its honorary chairperson, in which capacity she now functions.

Upon the recommendation of the DENR, Philippine Proclamation 1030 was signed by then Philippine President Fidel Ramos on June 23, 1997 declaring the Philippine tarsier as a specially protected fauna species of the Philippines. It stated that the Philippine tarsier, which is endemic to the Philippines, offers immense ecological, aesthetic, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the country and to the Filipino people, and as such, is a matter of national concern since it forms part of the Philippine natural heritage. The proclamation further prohibits the hunting, killing, wounding, taking away, or possession of the Philippine tarsier but states that possession for educational, scientific, or conservation-centered research purposes may be allowed upon certification of the DENR secretary. Moreover, the DENR was directed to spearhead the undertaking of all activities leading to the establishment of appropriate sanctuaries to preserve and protect the species as prescribed under the provisions of Republic Act No. 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1991. The proclamation further tasked the DENR to collaborate with other concerned government agencies, NGOs, local government units and local communities in the conduct of accelerated and expanded field researches and to avail of financial support and technical cooperation from local and international entities as may be deemed necessary, to implement the provisions of the proclamation.

On July 3, 1997, during the visit to Manila by Charles, Prince of Wales, an ardent conservationist, His Royal Highness consented to be symbolically presented with a pair of the species in the presence of then President Fidel V. Ramos and First Lady Amelita Ramos in Malacañang Palace. Fittingly, however, the Prince immediately re-conveyed the tarsiers back to the foundation for safekeeping.<ref>Prince Charles returns tarsier gift International Primate Protection League Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref>


Under a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DENR signed on April 27, 1997, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Incorporated has the following missions:

  • to establish a forest reserve in the island of Bohol which shall serve as the sanctuary of the Philippine tarsier;
  • to protect and manage the tarsier sanctuary through the active participation of local communities;
  • to establish and maintain a wildlife research laboratory for the study of the ecology and biology of the Philippine tarsier;
  • to establish and maintain visitor facilities for ecotourism and disseminate information material about the Philippine tarsier with emphasis on the species' protection and conservation.<ref>Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. Primate Info Net Retrieved 11 November 2006</ref>

Conservation program

Sign near entry of Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary

The foundation's four-point conservation program includes:

  1. tarsier research to study the tarsier's biology and behavior, record its population and distribution, identify habitat and food source, and develop instructional or educational materials;
  2. tarsier habitat management by defining the perimeter of the sanctuary with its topography surveyed and mapped, vegetation and wildlife within assessed, all flora and fauna inventoried and indexed, appropriate signage installed in strategic places, and adequate measures taken to ensure the integrity and security of the reservation;
  3. community management by establishing, maintaining and continuously updating community profiles in the area, regularly conducting dialogues and like activities to enlighten local residents on the purposes of the sanctuary and encourage their cooperation and participation toward achieving these, integrating tarsier conservation into day-to-day activities, and envisioning and implementing awareness and income-generating projects; and
  4. visitor management which involves the development of an overall site plan, the design and layout of essential facilities, the identification of significant areas and potential attractions, the construction of a visitor complex, the laying out of ecotours and the training of guides for them, and the production of tourism-related materials.

Programs, projects, and activities

PTFI Tarsier Research and Development Center, Corella,Bohol

Tarsier research

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation undertakes the collection and cataloguing of all available research materials on the Philippine tarsier from various institutions and agencies in the country and abroad, and the production of information and promotional materials.

The foundation also runs a Tarsier Research and Development Center which serves as a visitor and information center and which also coordinates the conduct of research on the Philippine tarsier. Researchers fitting temporary radio collars helped establish the animals' breeding and eating habits as well as their territorial ranges. Among the researches conducted are:

Habitat management

The foundation conducted a series of environmental, topographic, photographic and social surveys of the Tarsier Sanctuary and its vicinity. It also undertook the commission of a comprehensive site plan, including the architectural design of the planned visitor complex and other support facilities and amenities. The Foundation has designated approximately 134 hectares as public domain. With the DENR playing an oversight role, the foundation has asked other Bohol towns with tarsier populations to donate 20 hectares (49.4 acres) of forestland for conservation.<ref>Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed time Retrieved 16 November 2006.</ref> To date, the foundation has acquired 7.4 hectares of land in Canapnapan, Corella, Bohol for the sanctuary. Within the sanctuary, tarsiers roam freely and visitors can go to a spot where they can be seen but not touched.

Existing in the area now is a spacious net enclosure where 100 tarsiers are kept safe from predators as well as for feeding, breeding and display. The tarsiers in the enclosure have gotten used to a seven-foot high fence that circumscribes the territory. At night, they can be seen climbing out of the fence to forage for food farther into the forest. They return again before daybreak, as if observing a curfew.<ref>RP tarsier: A new star of the biodiversity world Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref>

Carlito Pizarras serves as the Field Supervisor of the sanctuary,<ref>Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref> as employee of the foundation, assuming responsibility for the maintenance of the net enclosure and its inmates. Because they are extremely shy and nervous, tarsiers can only be handled by an experienced keeper.

The foundation further coordinates the conduct of reforestation projects and other related activities or initiatives.

Community management

In Bohol, the foundation has also encouraged the formation of the "Friends of Tarsier," an association composed of local professionals, religious and civic leaders, media practitioners, businessmen, government executives and workers, and students committed to tarsier conservation effort in particular and environmental protection and preservation in general. The foundation also made appeals for both financial and technical assistance from various organizations, corporations and individuals, public and private, Filipino as well as foreign, which have shown themselves to be similarly minded and are past and present contributors to such causes. The first to respond to these solicitations has been the Department of Tourism, which released to the foundation a generous grant earmarked for projects and activities in the ecotourism field.

Through its "Supporting the Philippine Tarsier Conservation Program", First Gen donated Php 2 million to the foundation, a portion of which was used to fund research on the implications for biodiversity assessment and conservation in Visayas and Mindanao. Additional amounts disbursed in 2005 and 2006 were used for organizing communities towards the protection of the tarsier and the promotion of ecotourism within the sanctuary area in Corella, Bohol.<ref>Corporate Social Responsibility First Gen Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref> Scarce government funding, however, leaves the preservation effort primarily in the hands of the private sector.

The foundation also conducted individual and corporate membership campaigns aimed at allowing as many local residents as possible to actively support and participate in the Tarsier Conservation Program. This is in the firm belief that no undertaking of such a nature can flourish without a strong community base. Subsequently, the campaign will be extended to the rest of the country and abroad, with environmentally involved or aware institutions, agencies, companies and persons foremost in mind.

While for the moment the foundation is focusing its efforts in Bohol, it hopes eventually to link up with groups similarly engaged in nature conservancy elsewhere in the Philippines, with whom it may jointly develop projects toward protecting the tarsier, along with other endangered, protected and rare fauna and flora species, and their natural habitats.

In addition, plans have been made to expand and replicate the program in other areas with Philippine tarsier populations like Mindanao, Leyte, and Samar.

Visitor management

The Tarsier Research and Development Center, about 14 km outside the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City, also serves as visitor center.<ref>A Visit to the Philippine Tarsier Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref> The center has a reception and souvenir counter, an exhibit area, an audio-visual room, restrooms, and administration offices. Outside is a lounge deck, and nearby a parking lot, beyond which no vehicles are allowed.

Visitors can choose to either see and observe the Philippine tarsier in the net enclosure or in their natural habitat through the tarsier trail. As mentioned earlier, the net enclosure has a seven-foot fence where 100 tarsiers are kept for feeding, breeding and display. Here, visitors can get up close and personal with the species, or take pictures, but are urged to do so quietly and not to handle them so as not to put stress on the animals who are usually asleep during the daytime.

The tarsier trail is a pathway that meanders through the gently rolling terrain of the interior towns of Corella, Sikatuna and Loboc. Over a distance of roughly 15 km it traverses the natural habitat of the Philippine tarsier, offering numerous vantage points from which to catch a glimpse of the tarsier in the wild and become acquainted with a wide variety of local flora and fauna.

Tarsier trail

The tarsier trail begins at the Tarsier Research and Development Center in Barangay Canapnapan. While there, the trekkers are oriented to the unique characteristics and habits of the Philippine tarsier through multimedia presentations such as a photographic display and an audio-visual presentation. In small groups, they are conducted by trained volunteer guides -- mostly college students from Tagbilaran City -- through the 134-hectare forested area that has been set aside as the Tarsier Sanctuary, populated by an estimated 500 of the species divided into mini-colonies of no more than three to 10 adults and offspring each. Along the way, they see mature secondary growths of mahogany, teak and ficus trees, and reminded that up to the last century, Bohol was a main source of hardwood used in the construction of sea vessels, churches, houses and furniture throughout the Central Visayas region. They are also introduced to the many varieties of palm, fern, bamboo and other greenery growing in profusion on both sides of the trail.

As they proceed farther, they are alerted to the fauna these parts are home to, the most common among them the are the serpent eagle, brahminy kite, woodpecker, rocky-tailed blue-headed parrot, grass owl, scops owl, bubock pigeon, water cock, parakeets, and reel. Monkeys, monitor lizards and snakes like the python and the cobra still abound, and on a good day, the trekkers may even be treated to sightings of the macaque, palm civet, and Philippine civet cat. The entire area, needless to say, is insect paradise, teeming with the creatures that are a staple of the diet of the Philippine tarsier, which will only ingest them live. All these may be observed either at ground level or from a series of elevated decks erected along the trail, some with restrooms nearby.

From the hinterlands of Sikatuna, the trail then crosses over into Loboc near the source of the broad and deep river, where after a course that can take anywhere from two hours to half day, swimming and sunbathing comes as a welcome respite. A short visit to the coraline stone Loboc church, a fine example of the more subdued but nonetheless still grand Jesuit baroque style for which the province is famous, comes next. Then, just across the road from the church, the trekkers board bamboo rafts, partaking of a native seafood buffet or a hearty snack as they float lazily down the placid emerald green river up to the small seaport of the town of Loay. From there, they take the road back to Tagbilaran City, which is no more than an easy 40 minutes away by bus.


Board of trustees and officers

PTFI Board with President Fidel Ramos and Mrs. Amelita Ramos

On April 17, 1996, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. was registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission, with the following prominent Bohol residents listed as incorporators: the Rev. Florante Camacho, SVD, president of the Divine Word College of Tagbilaran; Anos Fonacier, municipal councilor of Panglao, Bohol and resort operator; and Col. (ret.) Zosimo Angan, businessman. They were later joined by Richard Uy, banker, and Marlito Uy, department store owner. Elected principal officers were Fonacier as chairman; Camacho as president; and Alvarez, who is the only non-Boholano on the board, as executive vice-president.

The executive officers of the Board of Trustees and Officers of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation during its incorporation in 1996 are Fr. Florante S. Camacho, SVD, president; Jesus Alvarez, Executive director; Urbano Lagunay, secretary; Marlito Uy, treasurer; and retired Col. Zosimo Angan as auditor. The Board of Trustees are Anos Fonacier, Chairman; Richard Uy, Vice Chairman; and Honorary Chairperson is Secretary Mina Gabor of the Department of Tourism.

Currently, the following are the officers and Board Of Trustees: Chairman, Fr. Florante S. Camacho, SVD; V-Chairman, Mr. Richard T. Uy; President, Atty. Urbano Lagunay; V-President, Mr. Lyndon Angan (resigned - inactive); Secretary, Glenn Oceña (Program Officer); Treasurer, Mr. Marlito Uy; Members: Atty. Anos Fonacier; Dr. Irene Arboleda (our researcher/scientist); Mr. Soliven Fonacier; Mayor Vito Rapal - Municipality of Corella; and Field Supervisor Mr. Carlito Pizarras (the "Tarsier Man").

Carlito Pizarras

Carlito "Lito" Pizarras, known as the "Tarsier Man", is the Field Supervisor of the 7.4-hectare Philippine tarsier sanctuary.<ref name="lito">Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieve11 November 2006. </ref> Hired by the foundation in 1998, he maintains the net enclosure and its 100 Philippine Tarsier inmates. He also serves as a resource person and guide to visitors and researchers at the Research and Development Center.<ref name="lito">Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref>

Pizarras once hunted tarsiers for a living. Since age 12, he gunned down or trapped tarsiers, exotic birds, monkeys, snakes and lizards for his father, a taxidermist who augmented the family income through the sale of the preserved kill. Pizarras himself caught and sold Philippine tarsier specimens to collectors, hobbyists and tourists for a living <ref name="lito">Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref> He became so adept at the task that he hunted tarsiers by scent, learning that the animals gave off a musk through glands located on their breasts. He shot them out of the trees with air rifles, easily catching about 100 a month. At that time, stuffed tarsiers went for 300 pesos (about five dollars). For those who preferred live pets, catching them alive was a relatively straightforward undertaking. Trees were simply shaken until the tarsiers fell.

Pizarras slowly began to notice that he had to hike deeper into the forest to find tarsiers, unlike in the 1960s when one could snatch them off tree branches by the side of the road. He began keeping several tarsiers for feeding, breeding and display in the backyard of his residence in Corella.<ref name="lito">Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006. </ref> He began to breed tarsiers in captivity so he could raise the animals he would stuff. His captive breeding program was so successful that he bred 20 Philippine tarsiers in captivity.<ref>The Philippine Tarsier Bohol's Furry Little Mascot Retrieved 18 November 2006.</ref> He sent 10 live tarsiers bred this way to the Chicago Zoo in the United States in 1985.

Pizarras eventually gave 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.<ref>Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed timeAgence France-Presse Retrieved 18 November 2006. </ref> He has since become an enthusiastic environmentalist and conservationist. The Philippine Tarsier Foundation heard about his enthusiasm and recruited him as field supervisor of the sanctuary. "I love this job because it's actually a dream come true," Pizarras said, beaming. "Since I was small, I've always wanted to breed tarsiers, but we didn't have the money for the land. It's good that now, there are people who are as concerned."

Though Pizarras is not a biologist and only attained a high school education, he can churn out facts about the Philippine tarsier and its fight for survival as though he were a walking PTFI brochure. For his diligence and native knowledge of the creature, Pizarras has been featured on the National Geographic channel. Reader's Digest magazine also gave him an award in November 2000 as a "Hero for Today."

The indigenous knowledge Pizarras has learned about the Philippine tarsier that he shares with the visitors at the Philippine Tarsier Research and Development Center are that it is useless and doubly cruel to keep the animal as a pet because it is capable of "committing suicide" in captivity. Just to get out, it will bang its head on the cage until it dies. Pizarras says that he has witnessed this many times. If you frequently hold a tarsier in your hands, it will be under such stress that it will grow stiff and eventually stop breathing. Thus, touching the sensitive tarsier is a no-no in the sanctuary. It is very inviting to do so, especially since even in the daytime, the animal is not easily scared by approaching people and tends to rest on tree trunks and twigs at eye level.

Tarsiers, especially males, are territorial creatures. A male would attack any young tarsier venturing into its territory and kill it with a fierce bite. "That's why when there's a newborn, we try to check on the position [of mother and offspring] three times a day," Pizarras said, adding that the male tarsier's murderous disposition precluded keeping it in a small, enclosed space. The creatures seem to have a good memory, too. "Because whenever there are guests, that's when their eyes stay wide open. If it's just me around, they give me a brief look and go back to sleep," he said.

The estimated 100 tarsiers in the PTFI sanctuary can climb over the surrounding seven-foot-high net fence to hunt elsewhere at night. But they almost always return before daybreak. The fence is actually more for keeping the cats out and the insects in, Pizarras explained. Thus, he and two other staff members have made it their daily morning routine to inspect the net for breaches. At night, with the help of strong fog lights, flying insects from neighboring hills are drawn to the sanctuary, providing the tarsiers a steady menu. As an extra labor of love for his wards, Pizarras and his team bring in insect eggs that they find outside the sanctuary for hatching.


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  2. Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed timeAgence France-Presse Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  3. Prince Charles returns tarsier gift International Primate Protection League Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  4. Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. Primate Info Net Retrieved 11 November 2006
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  9. RP tarsier: A new star of the biodiversity world Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  10. Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  11. Corporate Social Responsibility First Gen Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  12. A Visit to the Philippine Tarsier Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  13. a b c d Tarsier Man was once a menace to animals Retrieved 11 November 2006.
  14. The Philippine Tarsier Bohol's Furry Little Mascot Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  15. Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed timeAgence France-Presse Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  16. Furry mascot of RP forest lives on borrowed timeAgence France-Presse Retrieved 18 November 2006.

External links