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Tarsier spotted being chased by squirrel on Forbes Park golf course

A tarsier was spotted being chased by a squirrel in a posh Forbes Park golfing club last Friday, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into the matter.

Tarsiers, which are not endemic to Metro Manila, can be found in the provinces of Samar, Bohol, Leyte and Eastern Mindanao. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has identified the Philippine tarsier as a near threatened species, with its population decreasing.

Donna Gordove, regional technical director for protected areas and wildlife management of the DENR-NCR, told GMA News Online that the tarsier was spotted "freely roaming" the Manila Golf and Country Club in Forbes Park, Makati.

"Parang hinahabol raw nung squirrel 'dun sa golf course [bago] makita ng caddy," Gordove said in a phone interview, citing the accounts of the caddies and golfers there.

Gordove, who heads the investigation, said they are now arranging a meeting with the management of Manila Golf to get their side on the incident.

GMA News Online tried contacting Manila Golf but was told that the officials were in a meeting.

San Augstin Albina, general manager of Manila Golf, refused to comment on the issue, according to a report aired in "News To Go" on Tuesday.

It has yet to be known why the tarsier was in the country club in the first place.

The Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 only allows accredited individuals, businesses, and researchers to collect threatened wildlife, and only for scientific, breeding or propagation purposes.

Those who inflict illegal acts on critically endangered species may be penalized with six to 12 years' imprisonment and a fine ranging from P100,000 to P1 million.

The tarsier has been caught and is now in the custody of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), said bureau director Theresa Mundita-Lim in the report.

Mundita-Lim said that the tarsier was weak but remains in stable condition, based on physical and visual examinations.

She added in a separate phone interview that the tarsier, which is not native to Metro Manila, may not survive the city's environment.

"Kapag iniwan mo siya, since hindi natural ang kanyang environment, hindi tayo sigurado kung mag-su-survive siya," Mundita-Lim told GMA News Online.

As of press time, the PAWB is still trying to identify the type of the spotted tarsier. Lim noted that it looks similar to the Philippine tarsier.


Meanwhile, Mundita-Lim is also looking into investigating the presence of squirrels, which are believed to have been imported from other countries such as Thailand, within the Manila Golf complex.

According to their records, PAWB has not authorized Manila Golf to import foreign squirrels.

"As far as we know, wala kaming permit na in-issue para magpasok ng Thailand squirrels, let alone 'yung pag-release nila sa natural environment. We're having that investigated by the DENR-NCR," Lim said.

If it is proven that Manila Golf failed to secure certification for the import, "[That would be] illegal transport," Lim said. "Kailangang may permit, may mga regulations tayo," she added.

According to the Wildlife Protection Act, importation or exportation of wildlife should be authorized by the environment secretary or a designated representative.

Lim added that the squirrels may affect the natural biodiversity in Manila Golf, which houses different species of birds.

"May mga indigenous birds tayo na nakikita pa rin dito sa city. [The squirrels] could affect the nesting nung mga ibon by stealing their eggs," she pointed out.

Manila Golf's Albina noted in the TV report that they only have few squirrels in the area and that they are only rarely be seen in the country club.

The PAWB is now requesting for a local transport permit from the DENR to bring the tarsier via airplane to Bohol, where it will be housed in a rehabilitation center. Gordove said the tarsier may be flown to Bohol on Wednesday or Thursday. — BM, GMA News