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Tarsier
Tarsius

CONSERVATION STATUS

CITES: Appendix II (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: T. pelengensis, T. sangirensis: EN; T. bancanus, T. dentatus, T. tarsier: VU; T. syrichta: NT; T. lariang, T. pumilus: DD (What is Red List?)
Key: EN = Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, VU = Vulnerable, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near threatened, DD = Data deficient, DD = Data deficient
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)

Tarsius dentatus
Tarsius dentatus
Photo: Stefan Merker

T. tumpara of Siau Island, Indonesia is considered one of the World's 25 Most Endangered Primates and has been assessed as Critically Endangered (CR A1acd) under the IUCN Red List criteria (Mittermeier et al. 2007). Captive management of tarsiers is difficult and up until now has not met with great success, partially owing to the nutritional difficulties involved with a primate that eats only live food further complicated by its reproductive life-history. As a result, over half of the tarsiers caught in the wild die within two years in captivity and captive infant mortality is high (Fitch-Snyder 2003). Further, at no point have any of the Sulawesian tarsiers been held in captivity (Gursky 2007a).

CONSERVATION THREATS

Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

Habitat destruction, change, and fragmentation pose significant threats to tarsiers with T. bancanus, T. tarsier, and T. syrichta all having lost more than half of their original habitat (Wright et al. 1987; MacKinnon 1997; Gursky 1998; Yustian 2007). For example, on Sulawesi, rates of habitat destruction remain high, even within protected areas (Gursky 1998). Further, tarsiers are usually not found in areas with high human populations and those which are under intensive agricultural use (Leksono et al. 1997). T. b. saltator habitats are destroyed for palm and pepper plantations and due to tin mining (Yustian 2007). Logging reduces tarsier density by destroying preferred supports and sleeping sites and by producing loud noises which disturbs the animals (Merker & Mühlenberg 2000). Further, areas that have been logged are then susceptible to other activities such as the establishment of plantations, the raising of livestock, and settlement (Merker et al. 2005). Strangler figs are often removed from human-utilized forests because they threaten commercially valuable trees. Because spectral tarsiers (T. tarsier) prefer strangler figs as sleeping sites, such destruction may threaten the species (Gursky 1998). Some tarsiers, such as T. b. saltator are able to live in small patches of secondary harvested forest (Yustian 2007). While tarsiers can inhabit degraded areas, secondary habitats and areas under cultivation, if all suitable sleeping sites are destroyed or cleared, then they become locally extinct (Leksono et al. 1997). Further, tarsiers are not found in all secondary habitats (Dagosto & Gebo 1996/1997). In general, densities of T. dentatus become progressively lower with progressively higher levels of disturbance (Merker et al. 2005). Although T. b. saltator can live in secondary habitats with dense undergrowth, they are not found in those that are carefully cleared and managed by humans (Yustian 2007). Compounding all of these problems in some habitats is a lack of enforcement of existing rules designed to protect tarsier habitats (Gursky 2007a).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Hunting can also be a significant threat to tarsiers. For example, the Siau Island Tarsier (unnamed Tarsius sp.) is hunted as a snack, sometimes eaten 5-10 at a time (Mittermeier et al. 2007). Further, opportunistic hunting of tarsiers occurs on Sulawesi, often utilizing dogs and blowguns (Gursky 2007a).

Threat: Persecution

Tarsiers are sometimes erroneously persecuted by farmers who believe that the tarsiers are eating their crops while in actuality they only eat animal prey, including pests that pose real threats to crops (Leksono et al. 1997; Merker et al. 2005). In fact, tarsiers could potentially act as a natural pesticide (Leksono et al. 1997).

Threat: Pollution

In some areas, the use of agricultural poisons have caused local extinction of tarsiers while in other areas of poison use, if still present, tarsiers show signs of sickness, including sores and low body weight which may be associated with such poisons (Leksono et al. 1997).

Threat: Natural Disasters

Forest fires, partially the result of human action and climate fluctuations, threaten tarsiers and have the potential to decimate entire tarsier populations (Wright 2003).

Threat: Human Disturbance

Human political unrest, especially civil wars in the Philippines and Indonesia have threatened tarsier species, especially those that reside entirely within a single country (all but T. bancanus). This is because protected habitats are often exploited during periods of lawlessness associated with political unrest (Wright 2003).

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Content last modified: December 1, 2010

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Nanda Grow.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2010 December 1. Primate Factsheets: Tarsier (Tarsius) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/tarsier/cons>. Accessed 2014 April 21.