Saturday Jan, 18 2020 05:53:52 AM

Plant a tree and see world smallest primates in South Cotabato

Climate Change/Environment • 18:45 PM Sun Dec 29, 2019
Edwin O. Fernandez
Some of the tarsiers in a sanctuary in Mt. Matutum, Tupi, South Cotabato needing protection and preservation. (Photo from DENR-12)

KORONADAL CITY  - Environmentalists in the Soccsksargen region are asking visitors of a tarsier sanctuary to plant a tree during their tour to help preserve the world’s smallest primate.

At the same time, steps were drawn to ensure that the tarsier sanctuary situated at the slopes of Mt. Matutum is preserved and protected. Starting on Christmas Day, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) of the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape (MMPL) has started implementing a policy that prohibits the entry of walk-in visitors to the tarsier sanctuary in Barangay Linan in Tupi, South Cotabato.

Those who wish to see the smallest primate must coordinate with the MMPL staff for visit schedules, according to Mila Calungsod Locsin, administrative chief of South Cotabato Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO).

Locsin said the Tupi MENRO will provide seedlings for any visitor to be planted within the sanctuary to help develop in them the spirit of volunteerism to preserve the sanctuary. “Walk-in visitors are discouraged,” Forester Gabriel M. Baute said.

Baute is the designated Protected Area Superintendent of the 13,947-hectare MMPL located in the Municipalities of Tupi, Tampakan and Polomolok in South Cotabato and Malungon in Sarangani. He added that visitors must undergo orientation on the do’s and don’ts of the sanctuary.

Baute, in a statement, explained why environmentalists are imposing stricter policies. “Tarsiers are nocturnal animals hence they sleep during the day and are active only during the night, like owls. Hence, visitors are enjoined to avoid disturbing these animals in their natural habitat or when visiting the sanctuary,” Baute said.

Like other wildlife, tarsiers are best left in the natural habitat than being captured and caged as pets. Tarsiers are known to commit suicide when in captivity and exposed to stressors like camera flash, human touch, and other forms of disturbance.

Baute said the Tupi local govenrmernt unit has developed a program dubbed as “Voluntourism” which was coined from the terms “volunteerism” and “tourism.” Under this program, visitors are encouraged to help plant trees while having an opportunity to see tarsiers in their natural habitat.

Rolando T. Visaya, Tupi Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO), said most welcome in the sanctuary are individuals with high regard and motivation for the protection and conservation of biodiversity, especially the tarsiers.

The tarsier is listed under “Near Threatened Species” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to unabated destructive activities within its known habitats. The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) was declared as a specially protected faunal species of the Philippines by virtue of Proclamation No. 1030 signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos on June 23, 1997.

The same proclamation mandated the establishment of appropriate sanctuaries to preserve and protect the species. Visaya said his office with the officials of Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape would be happy to assist individuals who are passionate enough to visit the area. (Edwin O. Fernandez)


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