It is raining hard when we arrive at the entrance of the tarsier sanctuary, and we can join a small group with a guide immediately. This is imperative, not only for explanations about the shy and endangered animals, but also because the animals are so small, they are hard to spot in the forest. Every morning, spotters go out in the forest to locate the nocturnal tarsiers, and then report their location. They turn out to move very little during the day. The guide tells us to be quiet, and to maintain distance to the animals. No matter how cute, touching them is absolutely not allowed. Tarsiers are known to be hypersensitive, are easily disturbed, and suffer from stress. They are even known to turn suicidal to escape the stress. So we cautiously follow our guide and her recommendations, and keep our encounters with these animals as short as possible.
Rain continues to come down, and the smart animals are clinging to branches under a leaf, which serves as their umbrella. And oh, how cute they look with their enormous eyes! They have this constant expression of amazement and innocence because of those eyes. They actually cannot close or turn their eyes, but their heads can turn 180 degrees so they can still look around them. Their eyes guarantee them night vision, which is when they start to roam around the forest in search of food. They feed on insects which are readily available in the forest. While their size is small (between 7 and 15 centimetres long), they look not much bigger than a large mouse. Especially when they are soaked, like some of the tarsiers we see: their fur reduced by the rain means they look even smaller.
The guide flawlessly points out all tarsiers in the small sanctuary. They are all clinging to branches of slim trees, surrounded by leaves. I am not sure I would have been able to spot one of them without the guide. When looking at one of them, it suddenly jumps to another branch in a very abrupt movement. So they do move, even during the day. It makes me wonder if we spent too much time, and if we stressed the small primate. Their tail is long, especially compared to their body size, which gives them supreme balance. And lastly, the tarsier is a solitary animal, in need of a whopping 2-6 hectares of territory which they will defend against other tarsiers (which could lead do the death of one of the tarsiers contending for a habitat). We have learnt a lot during our walk through the forest, and can only wish those involved in the protection of this vulnerable and unique animal well.
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