The world’s smallest primate, the highly-endangered Tarsier, has been called a “real-life Furby.” Actually, that comment was about the rarest Tarsier of all, the pygmy Tarsier, which was first sighted in Indonesia in 1921.
This unusual, charming creature is obviously nocturnal — the clue is its enormous eyes, as large as possible to let in as much light as can be, so the Tarsier can see well during the night-time hours. Tarsiers are most common in the Philippines, where there is a Tarsier Rescue organization. Unfortunately, like so many other charming, unusual wild animals, there is a thriving black market trade in Tarsiers, even though the animals are so delicate that they seldom live long in captivity.
Here is a great link to more in-depth information about Tarsiers. The Tarsier’s unusual morphology in teeth, bones and brain structure has caused it to be difficult for taxonomists to classify (well, they fight over just about anything, anyway). It is definitely a prosimian, and considered, for the time being, to be in its own unique infra-order. Many fossils of tarsiers have been found, and it is considered to be a very early order of primate — and it is not correct to say that it is the world’s smallest “monkey,” because it is not a monkey.
Tarsiers remind me of the African “bush baby,” pictured here. “Bush babies” are also a primate, and are similar to the aye-aye (depicted last week). All of these delightful small animals are endangered. While awareness of the problems of poaching and capture for sale as exotic pets is increasing, there is still a long way to go. One of the biggest emerging markets for exotic pets is Mexico. As Reuters just reported, many animals are caught up in the web of the drug trade, kept and exploited by drug dealers as both status symbols and money-makers, with less risk and more potential reward than the drugs that serve as the basis of their business. It seems that the ways that people can find to exploit other living creatures are virtually limitless.