Primates Of Northern Sulawesi

It’s as if someone squeezed them just a little too tight.  Eyeballs so oversized they can’t even rotate in their own sockets? It’s hard not to get a sympathy headache just looking at those bugged out eyes.  And those long, dexterous, knobby fingers and stringy bald tails…yep, that’s the classic recipe for cute.

Tarsiers are hard not to fall in love with.  These weird and wonderful pint sized primates are part of a family that has been on the planet for over 40 million years.  Once widespread, these little creatures are found solely in the islands of Southeast Asia today.  Designated as vulnerable to extinction, tarsiers are dependent on very specific habitat and food requirements.  They are the only solely carnivorous group of primates, feeding on protein rich insects. Bug-eyed with a little grasshopper stuck in the teeth…almost too cute to handle.

Each of a tarsiers eyeballs is approximately as large as it’s entire brain! This changes the entire anatomy of a tarsier’s skull but give them an incredible advantage as nocturnal predators.

Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve in northern Sulawesi comprises over 85 km2 of protected habitat.  The reserve was first created as a conservation area around Mount Tongkoko in 1919, and received official status in 1932.  While the area is officially protected, habitat destruction and hunting still pose a threat within the reserve.

Spectral Tarsiers (Tarsius spectrum) share the reserve with another iconic species of primate, the Crested Black Macaque (Macaca nigra) – also known as the Celebes Macaque. As their name suggests, these ‘old world monkeys’ are entirely back.

Celebes Macaques typical live in groups of up to two dozen, and can occasionally be found in groups of up to 75.  Regardless of the group size, females can almost always be found to out number males at a ratio of 4:1.

Births of single babies are typical in the springtime.  These nearly bald babies will nurse for roughly a year, and reach maturity in 3-4 years.

Considered to be critically endangered, Celebes Macaques are sometimes hunted as pests due to the destruction they can cause to agricultural crops.  The Macaca Nigra Project got going in 2006 and has been influential in research and conservation for the species.

More images can be seen in our Tangkoko Gallery

But back to those tarsier eyeballs…

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One Comment on “Primates Of Northern Sulawesi

  1. Love the video and article. One can only hope the wildlife of Tankoko can prevail in the face of ongoing threats to their habitat. Sadly, it’s a similar story with so many other unique and endangered species right across the archipelago due to lack of political will and corruption. I love Indonesia – it’s so rich in natural and cultural icons. I just hope as a nation, they can mobilise to protect these treatures before its too late.

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