Tarsier (Tarius syrichta, T. bancanus, T. spectrum, T. pumilus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family:    Tarsiidae
Size:    Length: 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 cm)  Tail: 5 to 11 inches (12.7 to 28 cm)
Weight: 3 to 6 ounces (85 to 170 g)
Diet: Almost any kind of insect, but also lizards, bats, snakes and birds
Distribution: Asia
Young:  1, once per year
Animal Predators:  Cats and owls
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent/Data Deficient (see Conservation below for details)
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Average 8 to 12 years



·       Superstitious Borneo headhunters fear tarsiers because they can rotate their heads nearly 360º.

·       When kept as pets, tarsiers often die within a few days because they require live food.

·       Tarsiers can eat 10 percent of their body weight in one day.

·       The name tarsier means “elongated ankle area.”

·       Indonesia and Malaysia have laws designated to protect tarsiers.

·       Tarsiers use their toenails as well as saliva to groom themselves, and clean their face by rubbing it against branches.



Tarsiers are tiny primates with huge eyes. In fact, if humans had eyes the same size as tarsiers, in proportion to our size, they would be the size of apples. Their ears are highly sensitive and are constantly crinkling or flickering as they discern the surrounding sounds. They have long legs, a short body and a round head. All species of tarsiers have long tails, but some are heavily haired while others are scaly, with a bushy tuft at the tip. 



Although tarsier fossils have been found in Asia, Europe and America, tarsiers are now only found in Southeast Asia, where they have lived for over 40 million years. Specific tarsiers live in certain areas of Southeast Asia—for instance, the Philippine tarsier (T. syrichta) is found only in the Philippines, with the centre of its range being the island of Bohol. Tarsius pumilus is found in Indonesia, in the humid and moist rainforests of the Central Sulawesi Mountains. Spectrum tarsiers (T. spectrum) are found exclusively on the islands of Sulawesi, Great Sangihe and Peleng, where logging is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of tarsiers each year. The western tarsier (T. bancanus) is found in southern Sumatra, Borneo and Bangka, a nearby island. 


Feeding Habits

Tarsiers come out at night to hunt for their favourite meal, which consists of just about any kind of insect, including ants, grasshoppers, moths, beetles, cockroaches and scorpions, but they will also eat lizards, bats, snakes and birds. They need to drink regularly, and lap the water up with their tongue. Tarsiers have sticky pads on their long fingers that enable them to grasp struggling prey while closing their eyes to prevent them from being harmed. Rather than using an up and down motion to chew their food, tarsiers chew from side to side.



Tarsiers form a long-lasting relationship with a member of the opposite sex. When courting, they make soft sounds while chasing each other. Tarsiers are gentle and affectionate, both with their partners and offspring. They often groom each other, especially during mating season. Breeding can occur throughout the year, and gestation lasts six months, a long time for such a tiny animal. The newborn is well-developed at birth, with fur and open eyes and is able to manoeuvre along branches in two days. Usually, however, the baby clings to the mother’s stomach while she moves around, although she sometimes carries the youngster in her teeth. The baby begins to eat live insects by the times it is three weeks old, and by four weeks, it begins to leap from branch to branch. By six weeks, the youngster may begin to hunt for itself, and will be weaned a short time later. Females stay with their parents until they reach sexual maturity at the age of one year, but males will disperse somewhat earlier. However, the youngsters usually form a very close bond with their parents and tend to stay in the same general area, remaining in contact with them for life.



Tarsiers usually live in small family groups consisting of a mother, father and offspring. They do not have nests, but during the day, tarsiers sleep in trees, leaning against a trunk or branch with their tail grasping a nearby branch, and their head dropping forward. They are capable of making extremely long leaps of up to six feet (1.8 m) from tree to tree. While on the ground, they usually hop like frogs, but sometimes walk on all fours. 



Spectrum tarsiers (Tarsier spectrum) are listed by the IUCN as Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent, which means they are at risk from habitat loss. The other three species are listed as Data Deficient, which means there is not enough data concerning their abundance and/or distribution to assess their risk of extinction.















Tarsier Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US