By Ben Serrano
Two tarsiers were found in a small forest patch on Mt. Mayapay giving Butuan tribal folk hope that there are more of the endangered specie in the area that is threatened by kaingin, quarrying and rapid land conversion .
The male and female tarsiers were found by a Manobo farmer on May 31 clinging to the low-lying branches of Bansilag tree at a forested area in Sitio Ugabang, Barangay Bonbon, Butuan City.
Farmer Quirino Macalisang, Jr. said he was tending his farm when he discovered the tarsier, one of the smallest known primates in the world.
Macalisang then informed his companions of what he saw, and rescued the saucer-eyed creatures.
It was not the first time a tarsier has been found in the area, he said.
“This is not the first time tarsiers were found in Mt. Mayapay. What we found was already the fourth this year alone. Last November 2016, a tarsier captured by a Mayapay resident escaped,” Macalisang told Caraga News Courier.
Living on a diet of insects, the Philippine Tarsier is mostly active at night. Its length from the top of the head to the tip of the feet (not counting the tail) is only 118-149 millimeters and weighs between 113 and 142 grams.
In fact, it is no larger than an adult man’s hand. The males are generally larger than females.
Manobo tribal chieftain Datu Malinggat said he would call for an emergency meeting with the Mt. Mayapay Tribal Council and the Development Board to discuss the discovery and how to deal with it.
Aside from Tarsiers, Malinggat said other endangered animals such as deer, cloud rats and Tamaraw lurked deep in the jungles of the 68,000-hectare Mt. Mayapay that straddles parts of Butuan City and Buenavista town in Agusan del Norte,
Claimed by the Manobo and Higaonon tribes as their ancestral land, Mt. Mayapay is a magnificent mountain located east of Butuan City, considered the range’s highest peak is 2,335 feet above sea level with a plateau formation above it, by which its predominant feature is the city’s backdrop.
According to Datu Malinggat, slash and burn or kaingin , quarrying and rapid land conversion are threatening biodiversity and ecological balance of the mountaing due influx of lowland settlers, infra build up, and illegal intrusions due conflict in ancestral land claims and tenurial instruments issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“The problem now is how to save this wildlife species when the very government agencies who supposedly must the number one concern and save them are the ones issuing land titles, the Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) and Community-based Forest Management (CBFM) certificates enticing people to come and to destroy further Mt. Mayapay due influx of lowlanders and settlements without properly managing them, ” he lamented.
“In effect putting all wildlife species in real, clear and present danger. The problem no one in the government until today seemed to address these problems,” he added.