Philippine Tarsier

The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta; also known as mawmag in Cebuano/Visayan) is an endangered tarsier species endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the southeastern part of the archipelago, particularly in the provinces of Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao, Philippines.

Its geographic range also includes Maripipi Island, Siargao Island, Basilan Island and Dinagat Island. Tarsiers have also been reported in Sarangani, although they may be different subspecies.


The Philippine Tarsier is a tiny animal, measuring about 4 to 6 inches (15 cm) in height. The small size makes it difficult to discover. The average mass for males is around 4.73 oz (134 grams). The average mass for females is around 4.13 oz (117 grams). The average adult is about the size of a human fist and will fit very comfortably in the human hand.

The Philippine Tarsier has a round head that can be rotated 180 degrees. It has a special adaptation in the neck to do this. Its eyes are fixed and not able to move. The large membranous ears are mobile. They appeared to be almost constantly moving causing any movement to be heard. It has uniquely large goggling eyes (disproportionate to its head and body). It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest eyes on a mammal. Being nocturnal, having these huge eyes are perfect for night vision.

The Philippine Tarsier has a thick and silky fur that is colored gray to dark brown. The thin tail is naked or bald except for a tuft of hair at the end. It is about twice the body length, usually used for balance. The feet have two grooming claws unlike most animals. The hind limbs are elongated and have disk-like pads on the fingertips that help it cling easily to trees. Its “tarsus” or anklebone is elongated (hence the name). It can jump at least 3.28 yards (3 meters) from tree to tree without having to touch the ground. The long digits are tipped with rounded pads that allow it to grip almost any surface. The thumb is not truly opposable, but the first toe is. All of the digits have flattened nails, except for the second and third toes.


The Philippine Tarsier is a shy nocturnal animal. It leads a mostly hidden life, asleep during the day and only active to look for food during the night. During the day, it sleeps in dark hollows close to the ground. They are found near the trunks of trees and shrubs deep in the impenetrable bushes and forests. They only become active at night. It has much better night vision and amazing ability to maneuver around trees. They are very able to avoid humans.

It is tree living and is a vertical clinger and leaper. It is habitually clinging vertically to trees and are capable of leaping from branch to branch.


The Philippine Tarsier is carnivorous. Its diet consists of live insects and is also observed to feed on spiders, small crustaceans, and small vertebrates such as small lizards and birds.

Upon seizing its prey, the tarsier carries it to its mouth using both hands.

The Philippine Tarsier is solitary. However, it is found to have either monogamous or polygamous mating system.


The Philippine Tarsier uses varied means of communication. It less vocal than many primate species, and uses calls which are often associated with territorial maintenance and male-female spacing. Its “loud call” is a loud piercing single note. When content, it emits a sound similar to soft sweet bird-like twill. And when several tarsiers come together, they have a chirping, locust-like sound.

Its vocal communication is the distress call made by infants when they are separated from their mothers. It is also the call made by males to their mates during mating season.


The Philippine Tarsier’s habitat is the second growth, secondary forest, and primary forest from sea level to 2,297 feet (700 m). Its habitat includes tropical rainforest with dense vegetation. The trees offer it protection like tall grasses, bushes and bamboo shoots.


Besides human hunters, feral cats banished from nearby communities are the main predators. Some large birds are known to fancy them too. The Philippine Tarsier is most likely to fall prey to owls, or to small carnivores that it can encounter in its canopy homes.