Cute Animal in Danger: Pygmy Tarsiers

Texas A&M via Fair Use.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The pygmy tarsier, one of the world’s most endangered primates, was thought extinct until 2000, when one of them accidentally ended up dead in a rat trap. The pygmy tarsier lives 7,000 feet above sea level in the Indonesian jungle, and weighs only 50 grams: about the same as three tablespoons of sugar. These pint-sized mammals have such huge eyes that they can’t turn them very well: instead, they can turn their heads 180 degrees. Some have called the big-eyed animals “real-life gremlins,” thought pygmy tarsiers definitely eat after midnight (they’re nocturnal, and like insects and fruit) and have specially dense fur to keep them dry and warm in their moist, cool climate.

In 2008, a two-month expedition by Texas A&M researchers used 276 nets in an attempt to capture a pygmy tarsier. Eventually, they netted three (one got away) and fitted them with tracking devices. It didn’t go smoothly. “I have the dubious honor of being the only person in the world to have bitten [by a pygmy tarsier],” the expedition’s lead researcher, Sharon Gursky-Doyen, told LiveScience. “I was attaching a radio collar around its neck and while I was attaching the radio collar he bit me [on the finger].” That particular tarsier, the researcher reported, was later eaten by a hawk.

Gursky-Doyen has said that she hopes the team’s research will help nudge the Indonesian government to protect the species. “They [tarsiers] always look like they have a perpetual smile on their face, which adds to the attraction.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate