Foreigners resume tarsier study in SouthCot’s Mt. Matutum

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 January) — After almost three months of delay, a foreign conservation group has resumed its field studies on tarsiers in the mountains of South Cotabato after getting the approval of a local environment body.

Tupi town Mayor Reynaldo Tamayo said the California-based Endangered Species International (ESI) was given an extension by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape (MMPL) to continue with its research activities on the Philippine tarsiers in the area.

He said the initiative will cover parts of Barangay Linan of Tupi, specifically in areas where the tarsiers had been sighted.

“(ESI) will resume its research activity to complete the needed data that will be used for the establishment, development and management of a tarsier sanctuary in the area,” the mayor said in a statement.

Tamayo said the proposed sanctuary covers 544 hectares in Barangay Linan, which is part of the critical MMPL.

The ESI team, which is headed by its founder and president Dr. Pierre Fidenci, launched the tarsier research in December 2011 in two sites within the Mt. Matutum area.

The research is in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), PAMB, Tupi local government, South Cotabato provincial government, Linan barangay council and various local non-government organizations working on the conservation of the MMPL.

The municipal government of Tupi had endorsed ESI’s research project as part of its efforts to tap the tarsiers and its habitat for ecotourism development.

The ESI team took a temporary break in October last year due to the expiration of its research permit from Mt. Matutum’s PAMB, which is a multisectoral body responsible for the administration and management of the declared protected area.

The PAMB, which is supervised by the DENR, granted ESI’s request for extension and renewal of the research permit during its 2012 fourth quarter meeting.

Fidenci, a French conservation biologist, said the team has so far covered around 30 percent of the target research area and plans to double its efforts to complete the initiative in the next three to four months.

He visited the area late last month to start the necessary preparations for the resumption of the research activity.

The team’s biologist arrived in the area two weeks ago to resume the field research along with a local team composed of members of the B’laan tribe.

ESI earlier trained a group of B’laan residents from the area to assist the research, which is focused on the habitat of the tarsiers.

Parallel with the research, the ESI had spearheaded the planting of various indigenous tree species in the area to restore the natural habitat of the tarsiers, which are considered as the world’s smallest primates.

The conservation group decided to launch the research project three years ago to help save the area’s tarsiers from extinction.

Fidenci earlier 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.

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.” (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)