Philippine Tarsier Visitors Centre
The Philippine Tarsier Research and Development Centre is located near the town of Corella on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. The Centre itself is a combined research, museum and visitor centre. The displays are well put together and give an informed insight into the natural history and biology of these attractive little creatures.
Just a short walk from the visitor centre is an enclosed area of some seven and a half hectares which contains something in the region of one hundred Tarsiers. Visitors to the centre are given guided tours on a set route through this area and are more or less guaranteed to see at least one or two animals.
The Tarsier receives paper protection throughout its range within the Philippines. Sadly in actuality this is not the case as is apparent from places like the Loboc River Tarsier setup.
This is one of a series of zoo reports that was actually included within my travel journal ‘The Itinerant ZooKeeper’. Initially I started to extract the zoo data but found the reading was diminished by it. So look on it as a zoo travelogue. The only major edits I have done is a little censoring and to remove the Casanova exploits.
Discovering The Tarsier
Thursday 22nd February 2007
At breakfast I made casual mention the TV show 'Big Brother' to Gloria. I wish I hadn't because she required detailed explanation. She could not get her head round such a stupid idea for a programme. She was right though because the more I explained the more stupid it sounded, and it is really, isn't it?
Our first stop today was at the Philippine Tarsier Visitors Centre http://www.philippinetarsier.org/in Corella. This is run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation an altogether professional setup. I had seen a National Geographic documentary about this place about two years ago but never dreamed that I would ever visit. It had an interesting history and development so it was a pleasure both to visit and to meet the man who started it, one Lito Pizzaras. We were given a guided tour through a fenced off area of jungle and were lucky enough to see four of the ten animals there. Lito Pizarras had originally earned his living capturing Tarsiers for the pet trade as well as killing them and stuffing them as tourist souvenirs. One day realised they were becoming scarce and so went into breeding them and eventually protecting them. The documentary was very good but the Lito told me that it was not exactly true...but then what TV movie or documentary ever is.
Within the jungle once a Tarsier was spotted they were easy to approach and photograph. We took our guidance from our very friendly guide as we approached and did not use flash. Delightful little creatures. They never moved from their diurnal hides which were as simple as a branch and a leaf overhead. Our guide was informed and helpful and interesting to talk to. The educational displays in the display centre were good to excellent. The entrance fee was just twenty pesos a head, incredibly good value for money. I put money in the donation box as well as tipping the guide because I believe this place really needs support. In the forest around there are another hundred or so Tarsier protected by the centre.
Another couple of hours drive further down the road and we were in the 'Chocolate Hills', a place Gloria had dreamed of visiting since childhood. Me? I had never heard of the place before a few weeks ago. It was interesting though and one of the most unusual places I have ever visited, an 'other worldly' type of landscape. I have seen similar formations near the Thai border with Cambodia though. Here though they were much more numerous. Chocolate refers to the colour of the hills during the dry summer months....right now they were green but no less special for that. The view from the gents urinal was very special and second only that from the Virgin Mary's house urinal in Turkey.
I have dim recollection of having tried Birds nest soup before (though I have written about it often enough). Perhaps my father trying to get me to try something new and my childhood prejudices of anything in that category and particularly something made of bird spit have caused me to blot out the experience. Tonight, all in the interests of science, I had Birds nest soup for dinner. It was delicious, so much so that I will try it several more times.
The rest of the meal was good too. It was only spoilt by the Australian guy on the next table trying to steal Gloria away from me. He was nice enough about it but I would have preferred if he had not been so blatant, or looked elsewhere. Jealousy? Moi?
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