Because of their cute appearance tarsiers are often victims of a black market and end up as a tourist attraction. We experienced such a terrible event by ourselves. One morning at the end of May a couple brought tarsiers to the Simply Butterfly Conservation Centre which is a partner of Tarsius project and where I stay. They offered them for sale.
We had to decide what to do. Tarsiers where offered to the centre a few times before and it did not seem to be related to the ongoing Tarsius project. The poachers told us that the tarsiers were caught accidentally during cutting of grass. That is a usual excuse, either cutting of grass or collecting of firewood. And than the tarsiers are brought in skilfully made cage that does not look amateurish at all.
We didn’t want to encourage poachers to catch more tarsier and offer them for sale; especially not here in the conservation centre. But we had two options, either we take them or the tarsiers will be sold to Loboc and displayed as a tourist attraction. We decided to take them and tried to explain to the poachers that the tarsiers are very sensitive and can be hardly kept in captivity. They did not want to listen and gave us also a bottle with crickets. At least they knew how to feed them and did not offered bananas to these carnivorous primates as you can also sometimes see.
Yet, I have not mentioned the worst thing in this whole story. The poachers did not hesitate to catch tarsier mother with approximately ten days old baby of her. Both of them were very stressed and frightened. I took them home and waited for the evening, the best time for releasing these nocturnal animals back to the wild. Until evening they both calmed down and the baby even suckled which was a good sign.
They were caught a few kilometers away, but we decided to radio-collar the mother and release them in our research area. Soon after sunset both were taken to the forest. I was afraid how the mother would behave and if she would be able to take care of the baby in despite of such a big stress during past two days. But she appeared to be very good and responsible mother. She waited until the baby was placed on a branch and them took it carefully to the mouth and carried a few meters away. Then she explored the new area and continued calling the baby.
This example shows that poaching is still very common in this area. We hope the rescued tarsiers will like their new home and will be happy that they did no end up in one of the Loboc tarsier display spot.