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Extinct Pygmy Tarsier Rediscovered

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 24th, 2008

Due to all that’s been going on, I am still playing catchup with the recent “discovery news,” and a big one happened last week that I don’t want to miss sharing.

It is always good to hear about the rediscovery of a primate, and one caught and killed after nearly 80 years is news. Having finally seen the species alive after 87 years is indeed bigger news.

Scientists have observed a living pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus), one of the planet’s smallest and rarest primates, for the first time since 1921. The primate was rediscovered on a misty mountaintop, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

In 2000, Indonesian scientists who were trapping rats in the Sulawesi highlands accidentally trapped and killed a pygmy tarsier, spurring excitement to study the long lost primates again. Until that time, everyone really didn’t believe that they existed because people had been going out looking for them for decades and nobody had seen them or heard them.

Tarsiers are unusual primates — the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and people. The handful of tarsier species live on various Asian islands. They are nocturnal insectivores and are unusual among primates in that they have claws rather than finger nails. The pygmy tarsier is also known as the mountain tarsier or the lesser spectral tarsier.

As their name indicates, pygmy tarsiers are small — weighing about 2 ounces (50 grammes). They have large eyes and large ears, and they have been described as looking a bit like one of the creatures in the 1984 Hollywood movie “Gremlins.”

The group observed the first live pygmy tarsier in August 2008 at an elevation of about 6,900 feet. Over a two-month period, the scientists used nets to trap three furry, mouse-sized pygmy tarsiers — two males and one female — on Mt. Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in central Sulawesi, the researchers said last Tuesday.


Sharon Gursky-Doyen/Texas A&M University/Handout photo.

They spotted a fourth one that got away. (It’s always that third or fourth one, it seems, that gets away!)

The tarsiers, which some scientists believed were extinct, may not have been overly thrilled to be found. One of them chomped Sharon Gursky-Doyen, a Texas A&M University professor of anthropology who took part in the expedition.

“I’m the only person in the world to ever be bitten by a pygmy tarsier,” Gursky-Doyen said in a telephone interview.

“My assistant was trying to hold him still while I was attaching a radio collar (to track its future movements) around its neck. It’s very hard to hold them because they can turn their heads around 180 degrees. As I’m trying to close the radio collar, he turned his head and nipped my finger. And I yanked it and I was bleeding.”

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


13 Responses to “Extinct Pygmy Tarsier Rediscovered”

  1. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    Great news indeed, it’s always exciting when a creature long thought gone is found. It always makes me wonder what else could be eluding us. When I first saw the photo I thought Gremlin also :)

  2. Brekkman responds:

    Great story Loren! Who knows what else is out there!

  3. shumway10973 responds:

    awesome to hear! You know the right people are on the expedition when they get excited about being bit by one. I will admit, they have always been one of my favorite animals.

  4. Ceroill responds:

    Agreed, excellent news!

  5. ARO responds:

    This is so freakin awesome! Thats animal is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while!!!!!!!!

  6. cryptidsrus responds:

    Great news, Loren.

  7. swnoel responds:

    Makes you wonder why all these small creatures can be found and an 8 foot 1000 pound monkey can’t .

  8. DWA responds:

    Swnoel says:

    “Makes you wonder why all these small creatures can be found and an 8 foot 1000 pound monkey can’t.”

    Not really. Not if you know what’s going on. Here’s what’s going on:

    1. Tiny creatures can be carried to somebody, to whom you say: Look, told you so! Try THAT with the “monkey.”

    2. When you’ve found one, and you are a professional biologist, you get a camera and take a picture. Kind of easy when you’ve trapped the little guy and it can’t get away. Try that when you’ve just stumbled over a “monkey” three or so times your size that, oh by the way, you know for sure doesn’t exist. Try trapping the “monkey,” while you’re at it, with that purse or game bag or day pack or wallet or whatever it is you happen to be carrying. (I know I will hear about guns in response to this. Read reports for what happens there. Then get out there with a gun and use yours, and problem solved.)

    3. People are searching for new little guys, 24/7/365. Absolutely combing the vegetation, in places you will never hear of. All the time. People looking for the “monkey” get out for the occasional weekend, maybe. Good luck finding a fox on that schedule. (I know I will hear about how all these folks should have seen the “monkey.” How do you know that, say, a quarter of them haven’t, and just want to be taken seriously when they find little guys, instead of being thought nuts? Just asking.)

    4. Most all of the little guys have analogues elsewhere that are known and accepted by science. Kind of helps the credibility factor (as does their general portability).

    5. The “monkey” HAS been found, by thousands of people. We know where it is. The reports tell us where it is. It’s just mainstream science that’s ignorant. And they happen to be the ones with the wherewithal to come back with the proof. Little catch there.

    6. People think it’s a “monkey,” which doesn’t help matters.

  9. swnoel responds:

    “5. The “monkey” HAS been found, by thousands of people. We know where it is. The reports tell us where it is. It’s just mainstream science that’s ignorant. And they happen to be the ones with the wherewithal to come back with the proof. Little catch there”

    Well I’ll be darn…. what are you waiting for, get me a picture or video so we can all see him.

    I disagree with you, I’m not asking anyone to bring the animal to anyone, how about a decent picture or video.

    That’s not asking too much is it?

    There’s literally thousands of game cameras out there, just one picture that we can actually make out what it is.

    Let’s forget the scientific community… they’re too busy trying to get big $$$$ grants for something other than the “monkey man”

  10. DWA responds:

    Well, swnoel, all I can say is: we’ll get that picture right to ya!

    Given that every significant find in zoology is the result of at least a decade of dedicated full-time work….let’s see, factoring in three weekends a year….that comes to…any century now!

    If we “forget the scientific community,” that is.

  11. swnoel responds:

    Your the one telling the story…

    Looking forward to the pixs.

  12. DWA responds:

    Aaaah, swnoel…so much fun dueling here with the intellectual set at Cryptomundo…

    [Dr. DWA sighs. It is a well-known sigh from the great one...the sigh of patience...the sigh of enlightenment....]

    How many times do I have to tell you, grasshopper? THE EVIDENCE SPEAKS HERE. Dr. DWA only listens. No story here, grasshopper. Just evidence. Dr. DWA has satisfied himself that the evidence – all of it – points to the existence of the sasquatch. All of this close-minded silliness is simply as static around the edges of Enlightenment.

    [Another Enlightenment sigh]

    This doesn’t say Dr. DWA seeks nothing more here. He awaits proof. Until then, he is satisfied, and sees no need to provide grasshoppers with “pixs!?!?!?!!?!?!?” …whatever.

    Dr. DWA does have one question, however, one question that haunts him constantly. Not the sasquatch; he is satisfied there. Men of great learning, you see, agree with Dr. DWA, go even farther than he does, in fact, with the evidence, to forthright statements that the animal doth indeed exist. Most of the public, ignorant, know not of what they speak here. Yet all that is required is simple reading, of words written by learned ones in relevant fields, men and women whose sheepskins could bury swnoel’s house meters deep. (Do grasshoppers have houses? Dr. DWA muses. Maybe not, with their unwise habit of letting ants do the work…) Much of this verbiage is, the last time Dr. DWA checked, in English.

    Oh yes, the question.

    Why do those bereft of curiosity, those who sneer at that of which they are ignorant, even come to this shrine of learning? What could be going on there, other than a desire to provide, let us just say, contrast?

    THAT is a question.

  13. Cryptomundo55 responds:

    Amazing how they found that thing because that hasn’t been seen since 1921!If that was the only one they found thats a Cryptid.



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