Just like “Master Yoda”, (the famous Star War character), this endangered and considered the world’s smallest primate is an international celebrity famous for its weird, funny-looking eyes.
The Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta), known locally as the kupal in Cebuano/Visayan, is an extremely small animal measuring around 85 to 160 millimeters (3.35 to 6.30 in) in height. It weighs 113-142 grams. Its geographic range includes the islands of Bohol, Leyte, Samar, and Mindanao in the Philippines. It can easily be identified by its big, round eyes (considered the biggest amongst mammals) — 16 mm across, very proportionate to its body size!
Having eyes that are fixed in its skull poses no threat for this versatile primate. It is gifted with a special neck flexibility — allowing its head to swivel its head 180 degrees! Furthermore, the Philippine tarsier‘s big eyes provide it with excellent night vision. It has large, constantly moving ears and thin tail primarily used for balance. The thin, rough fur comes in gray to dark brown in color. The toes’ second and third digits have sharp claws typically used for grooming.
The Philippine tarsier lives in tropical rainforest with dense vegetation and trees that offer it protection such as bamboo shoots, bushes and tall grasses. A nocturnal animal, it feeds primarily on live insects, particularly crickets and grasshoppers. Often, the Philippine tarsier consumes spiders, lizards, and birds. A wily hunter, it jumps on unsuspecting prey and using both its hand carries it to its mouth.
This tiny animal uses diverse means of communication. Studies have shown that it produces three different audible calls. First a “loud call” resembling an intense single note. On a jolly mood, it releases a soft, sweet birdlike trill. During group communication, they emit a chirping, locust-like sound. Recent findings have revealed that tarsier”s vocalization in an ultrasound frequency range of 70 KHz and its finely tuned ears is capable of picking up frequencies above 90 kHz. By comparison, humans generally can’t hear anything above 20 kHz.
The females gestation period lasts about 6 months. Giving birth to a single offspring. In its natural habitat, the Philippine tarsiers can live up to 24 years. Its population is declining due to habitat loss; and if no action is taken, this gentle animal is on the brink of extinction. Currently, the Philippine government has launched various initiatives, including establishing a forest reserve on the island of Bohol; to protect and manage the tarsier sanctuary and setting up a wildlife research laboratory .