Tarsier

Peculiar primate with enormous eyes

What
The Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) is very peculiar and very small animal. In fact it is one of the smallest known primates, no larger than a man's hand.

It can be found in the islands of Samar, Leyte, Bohol, and Mindanao in the Philippines.

About
The Philippine tarsier is about 15cm in height and between 115 and 130g in weight. They have gray fur and a nearly naked tail.

The middle finger is elongated. Head and body length are around 118-149 mm; it weighs 113-142 grams.

In comparison with his body size, the eyes of the Tarsier are huge, giving it very acute night vision that makes them good night hunters.  But these eyes are fixed and unable to move like our eyes. To compensate their heads can turn 180o and the large ears are constantly moving and picking up sounds.

Tarsiers have enormous eyes and long feet. Their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, which is how they got their name. They live exclusively on animal prey.

Mostly active at night, it lives on a diet of insects. Folk tradition has it that tarsiers eat charcoal, but actually they retrieve the insects from (sometimes burned) wood.

The Tarsier is a  prosimian... ie an ancient ancestor of todays modern monkeys.

Why?
It is said that the Philippine Tarsier has the largest eyes, proportionate to its body size, of any animal on the plant (the Giant squid is squid to have the largest physical eyes).

Its "tarsus" or ankle bone is elongated (hence the name) allowing it to jump at least 3m from tree to tree without having to touch the ground. A remarkable distance for such a small animal.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Pretty good.  The Philippine Trasier is specially protected in the Philippines and considered part of the country's natural heritage.

Indeed, it is reported that "...one belief passed down from ancient times is that [tarsiers] are pets belonging to the spirits dwelling in giant fig trees. If someone harms a tarsier they need to apologise to the spirits of the forest, or it is thought they will encounter sickness or hardship in life."
Tarsius syrichta Philippine tarsier One of the smallest primates, this sub-species is endemic to ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND
Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) - One of the smallest primates, this sub-species is endemic to Bohol, Philippines.
© WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND

WWF's work for the environment in the Philippines

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required