Tarsier research in S. Cotabato’s Mt. Matutum pushing through

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/06 December)—A foreign conservation group is all set to conduct a two-month research on tarsiers, a “near threatened” species, in Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato’s landmark peak, officials said.

Dr. Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species International (ESI), said that a four-man team would be fielded starting December 9 to study the habitat of tarsiers in two sites in Tupi town.

“The research is very important to ensure a sustainable intervention [for the tarsiers in the area],” said Fidenci, who arrived recently to prepare for the logistics of the research expedition.

In a statement, Mayor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., assured the support of the local government unit to the research team, consisting of four Europeans, noting the project will help boost the tourism and economic potentials of the locality.

“We welcome this development, we have been waiting for this for so long, and we will be extending our full support to the ESI and to their project,” Tamayo said.

Fidenci, a French scientist, said that ESI will be conducting a research on the actual population of tarsiers in the area and the extent of their habitat.

The research area will cover sitios Bagong Silang and Fortuna, both in Barangay Linan, where the tarsiers have been sighted. It is within the multiple use zone of the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape.

The California-based ESI originally slated the research last May but cancelled it due to security concerns with the death of Osama Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group Al Qaida, in Pakistan.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is allegedly affiliated with Al Qaida, operates mainly in the island provinces south of Zamboanga City, and is not known to go around in this part of Mindanao.

The Tupi municipal government earlier restricted the capture of tarsiers in the locality in line with the research project of Fidenci’s group.

Early this year, the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources cleared ESI to conduct a one-year study on tarsier, the world’s smallest primate.

Alfredo Pascual, DENR regional director, said they issued a Wildlife Gratuitous Permit to the group, which would allow the conduct of a research for the possible conservation of the tarsiers in the area.

Fidenci had said their study aims to assess the tarsiers’ distribution, population size and density, habitat association, and status in Mt. Matutum, a declared protected landscape.

He added they plan to establish a core conservation center at Sitio Bagong Silang in Barangay Linan, Tupi “to better protect their habitat and to prevent the tarsiers from total extinction.”

Rolly Visaya, information officer of Tupi, said residents have been reporting about the presence of tarsiers in Mt. Matutum but no documentation and study has been ever conducted.

He said ESI’s interest in conserving tarsiers in Mt. Matutum was aroused by the initial visit of Fidenci in the area two years ago.

Fidenci said his group “is committed in reversing the trend of human-induced species extinction, saving endangered species, and preserving their vital ecosystems.”

In 2009, the indigenous people of Sitio Bagong Silang in Barangay Linan captured a tarsier along with three grass owls.

By doing the research, Fidenci said they hope to save the tarsiers in Mt. Matutum from extinction.

The Philippine tarsier, which has brought fame to Bohol, is one of the country’s primary flagship species for conservation.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) has been classified as “near threatened.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)