Bat hunter

by Danica J. Stark

Nonstop (Issue III/2019)


A Tarsier’s eyes are the size of its brain. Illustration: Shutterstock

If you roam the Borneo jungle at night, you may be lucky enough to be stared at by a small creature whose eyes are the size of its brain. A tarsier can turn its head 180 degrees in both directions and jump up to five meters - which is forty times its body length.

Called "Kera hantu” in Malay, which means ghost monkeys, they are smallest primates in Southeast Asia. Tarsiers only weigh about 130 grammes and are considered the only exclusively carnivorous primate species. They eat whatever they can kill: insects, bats and small reptiles. They tear off their prey's head with their razor-sharp teeth.

The Dusun people call them "ruket-ruket", which means "piece by piece", because they look like a wild mix of different animals: owl eyes, bat ears, frog legs and a rat's tail. Tarsiers can be found on the islands of Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines, often in regions that face massive deforestation. The loss of habitat and the use of pesticides in agriculture have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of tarsiers in recent years. The little hunters could work very well with landowners, after all, as natural pest control they play an important role in the ecosystem.

Translated by Jess Smee

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