Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Darling Tarsier

Jason's photo
My friend's son is traveling in the Philippines and on the island of Bohol he encountered the tiny (5 oz. average) totally captivating tarsier, one of the smallest mammals on the planet. It also has the highest eye to weight proportion of all mammals - oh, those googly eyes!!

Nicely adapted for life in a dog-eat-dog world, it's carniverous and consumes insects, birds, crabs and bats. In turn, it can be on the lunch menu of lizards, snakes and owls. Here's the part I liked...if a tarsier is being attacked and there are other tarsiers in the area, they all band together and attack the predator. Imagine being swarmed by hundreds of these little creatures? You'd die of cute!!!

But the tarsier has many resources and evasive mechanisms to protect against capture. In case a quick escape is necessary it's long, long legs - twice the length of head and body together - enable jumps up to  40 times it's own length -  the equivalent of a six foot man jumping 240 feet. A vertical clinger, the tarsier spends much of the time on tree branches, hunting at night, moving kind of like frogs, leaping on insects. The darling head conveniently swivels 180 degrees, a necessity because the eyes, while large, are fixed.  The large ears can move around in all directions but can also be folded back flat against the head when sounds are too loud. Great sensory system for early warning.

When it jumps and lands on a branch or tree the little grasping hands have long padded fingers covered with a sort of non-skid skin which makes clinging easy. 

They bear young one at a time with a gestation period of six months. The young are born fully furred and start moving on their own in a couple of days. They can live 12 - 20 years in their natural habitat and don't do well in captivity. In a short video, filmed in a Bohol sanctuary, the director said that the tarsier will stop breathing when held in human hands. I read elsewhere that they have been know to commit suicide in captivity by smashing their heads on bar cages. People tried to keep them as pets and they were once very popular in Japan. Now they are endangered and mostly protected.

As if the little thing isn't sweet enough, I read that they have high pitched voices and do many kinds of vocalizations.  The males and females sing duets together at the beginning and end of their foraging day.

More information about this fascinating little creature can be found here: 


and here:


  1. He's so lovely... and identical to Dobby, the house elf owned by the Malfoy family in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" movie.

  2. Anonymous6:28 AM

    Hi Helen at first i thought this was a joke like greeting cards where they imprint the face in an animal but they are real I have never heard of them thanks they are so cute! Beth

  3. I want one...but not if it's going to commit suicide!!!

  4. Just came across your site and this article about our wonderful Tarsiers! It's great and full of fun & interesting facts about these fascinating creatures....thank you so much for sharing! :-)