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The Tarsier Tree

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And so we are heading for the jungle to show my daughter some wildlife and rain forest before it is too late. Having witnessed how much of South East Asia was turned into rubber and palm oil plantations over the past two decades, this was my plan at least. The jungle in question is a lesser-known national park in North Sulawesi. We apply mosquito repellent against the ganone mites said to be a pest here and, trousers tucked into our socks, we hire a guide and pay the entry free at the park's gate. A broad path, rather a road than a track, leads into the jungle to an abandoned black macaque research station. To see the monkeys, however, no jungle walk is necessary; they are all hanging out around the rangers quarters, licking salt off the instant noodle soup packaging thrown out.

Following the walkway, we watch flying lizards unfolding their wings like miniature dragons, huge spiders, tiny birds and a number of humans, their pants equally tucked into their trousers. Fortunately, there are no mites these days. Our guide wears flip flops. Some of the trees along the walkway are QR tagged, in case a guide's knowledge should not be enough.

At dusk we follow a side path up from the main walkway towards the main attraction of the park: tarsiers, tiny nocturnal primates with huge eyes. They sleep during the day and are about to wake up. The guides know their sleeping tree, and when the tarsiers move their quarters, they will track them down again. We arrive just in time to witness the daily spectacle unfold: some fifty visitors from all over the planet gathering around a single tree to watch six tarsiers wake up. Many of the visitors carry lenses bigger then the animals to reproduce exactly the image above, which I am guilty of having taken myself: sleepy big eyes looking right into the face of – what? Conservation?

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