The Tarsier Man
Carlito Pizarras is known in Corella as the Tarsier Man. He is at present the field officer of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. (PTFI). PTFI is a non-stock, non-profit organization who has put it upon themselves to protect the tarsiers and their habitat. In fact, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have issued a Memorandum of Agreement to the organization mandating them to implement the Philippine Tarsier Conservation Program.
PTFI has now established the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary and within it, the Tarsier Research and Development Center. The organization continues to seek support from concerned individuals and corporations and to encourage as many local residents as possible to the cause of preserving the tarsiers in Bohol.
Because of the group’s efforts in Corella, the tarsier has gained recognition throughout the Philippines and even to the outside world. Corella is now a tourist destination – a feat largely attributable also to the efforts of the Department of Tourism.
But much ahead of them – of PTFI and of the DOT, is Lito Pizarras. At an early age, he took it upon himself to take care of the tarsiers after a period of being a tarsier hunter himself. He used to hunt them to help his father who was a taxidermist. He learnt the intricate trade of stuffing the small animals and then selling them to those interested, which were many!
At that time, the stuffed tarsiers were bought at P250.00 each and it helped the family to get by from time to time. Lito’s father also trapped other animals, stuffed them and sold them to the public yet the tarsiers fetched the highest price for they were so cute and the foreigners loved them!
His initial assignment was to trap the tiny primates, which is not easy mind, for they were so mobile. At that time though, the tarsiers were aplenty and could be found on trees just around their village. With practice, he was adept in catching them in no time at all and delivered them in a jiffy to anybody who requested for them – stuffed or live.
His love affair with the tarsiers started when he was twelve years old. He decided to take care of one of them, grew to love the little creature to the extent that he no longer wished to hurt it nor anyone of its breed and make them into stuffing. Buoyed with love, he studied the tarsiers in their natural habitat and learned about their eating and mating habits and more.
Sadly, the number of tarsiers in their area has dwindled – thanks to him, his father and other hunters plus the slash-and-burn farming which was the inherent practice at that time and which greatly destroyed the tarsier’s habitat. It slowly dawned on Lito’s mind to protect the tarsiers as much as possible and to breed them. Breeding the tarsiers became a great challenge to him. In spite of the animal’s aversion to captivity, Lito bred dozens of them.
Breeding the tarsiers was not an easy matter. The small primates lived on fruits, insects, lizards and loved small fishes, young birds and frogs which Lito with his wife and three kids searched and caught daily to feed them. They fed double the amount if they have a pregnant female tarsier. Feeding more often than not ate into their meagre budget yet they carried on. When the tarsiers matured, Lito released them into the forest.
Thus, his great love for the tarsier now has earned him the name of “Tarsier Man”. He was instrumental in setting up the conservation program of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation – who, after 30 years of taking care of the tarsiers on his own, has been hired by the Foundation to take full time care of the tarsiers in the sanctuary. With the group’s media campaign, the tarsier’s mortality rate has been offset and it has been taken out from the endangered specie list.
The tarsier trail - The Tarsier Trail is a much traversed pathway in Corella by trekkers and eco-tourists. The pathway winds its way thru the gently rolling forested terrain of the interior towns of Corella, Sikatuna and Loboc which has been known as the natural habitat of one of the world’s smallest primate – the tarsier.