Malaysia is the only country to have developed a monitoring programme for fireflies, which has been undertaken monthly since 2006 in the ecotourism destination of Kuala Selangor.
This was disclosed by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Dato’ Zoal Azha Yusof in his speech read by the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Director General (DG) Dato’ Dr Abd Latif Mohmod at the opening of the Second International Firefly Symposium 2010 (IFS 2010) on 2 August 2010 in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Speaking to reporters after the opening ceremony, Dato’ Dr Abd Latif said the data and information collected through the FRIM firefly monitoring programme had enabled the institute to notify the state authorities of disturbances to the firefly habitats in 2008.
“With the firefly monitoring programme, we were able to alert the state of disturbances in the area and also provide evidence-based recommendations on conservation measures,” he said.
As a result, the Selangor Government had taken positive steps last year to gazette up to 100 metres from the river bank as a protection zone and also initiated the acquisition of private land along the river bank in Tanjung Beluntas.
The FRIM firefly monitoring programme focuses on seven sites covering 1.6 kilometres along the Selangor River, from Bukit Belimbing to beyond Kampung Kuantan.
The principles and techniques involved in the monitoring method, developed and refined by the FRIM researchers, as well as the findings were presented at the symposium.
FRIM Entomologist Dr Laurence G. Kirton explained that the method, which uses a highly-sensitive digital camera, mounted on a special tripod to capture flashes of the fireflies from a great distance, and image analysis software to interpret the images, requires calculations and calibration to ensure reproducible results.
The data compiled will indicate the abundance of the firefly population as well as the health of the environment which supports the population. So far, the researchers have been able to analyse the natural fluctuations due to changing weather patterns from one year to another.
“We can tell that there will always be a dip in the population in October, probably due to the drier months during the mid-year and the population will increase again by December and peak between May to August.
“However, over a longer period of between five to 10 years, we will be able to see the trend more clearly, whether there is an increase or a decline in the firefly population and possibly relate it to the happenings around this area,” he added.
The four-day symposium, jointly organised by FRIM and the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), is attended by some 80 participants including firefly experts, researchers and conservationists from all over the world.
Supported by the Selangor State Government, Tourism Selangor, the Ministry of Tourism, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Malakoff, the symposium gave participants the opportunity to learn of the latest research findings and firefly conservation efforts carried out in other parts of the world.
Among others, Prof. Ohba Nobuyoshi from Ohba Firefly Institute in Japan, shared his experience in working with local communities to restore damaged firefly habitats in various parts of Yokosuka city, undertaking river restoration and firefly conservation activities including getting schools involved in the conservation efforts.
A declaration on conservation of fireflies called the Selangor Declaration was formulated by the participants of the symposium and can be downloaded from the symposium website (http://www.ifs2010.frim.gov.my/declaration.htm).