Be careful on firefly watching trips

11 Feb 2014 / 22:55 H.

    AN advertisement aired over most radio stations makes a commendable attempt at promoting nature tourism, including firefly-watching in Kuala Selangor. Although Green Living encourages low-impact sustainable eco-tourism as a means of cultivating a love of nature and the environment, we have serious concerns about the practices used by some tour operators involved in firefly-watching excursions.
    Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) members have complained that some local firefly-watching tour operators use flashlights and other artificial means to mimic the mating signals of fireflies to lure the insects to tourist boats.
    This disrupts the mating, feeding and resting patterns of the fireflies, and causes them to fly into areas beyond their safe zones. The exhausted fireflies, after circling around the boats and tourists in their futile search for a mate, then fall into the water and are eaten by fishes.
    While insects are part of the normal food chain for fish and other animals, the fact that fireflies are lured to premature deaths, often before they have had the opportunity to breed, means that firefly populations in such places will be depleted more quickly than they can recover. Such unethical practices by tour operators directly contribute to the gradual extinction of fireflies.
    Congregating firefly zones in Malaysia, including in Kuala Selangor, Cherating and Kampung Dew, Taiping, are under threat from large-scale plantations, aquaculture ponds, flood mitigation and river widening activities, illegal sand mining, clearing of river reserves, use of pesticides and poor waste management methods. Most visitors who have been to these firefly habitats 10-20 years ago can attest that firefly populations have dwindled drastically.
    Over the years, MNS has worked with local authorities, tour operators and local communities to educate and empower them with the requisite knowledge and skills to protect firefly habitats and populations. Although it is a disappointment to know that unethical firefly-watching practices are still being carried out, it is not unforeseen as many tour operators prioritise short-term gains over durable and sustainable solutions. We urge the state tourism authorities to inspect the way tour operators conduct firefly-watching activities.
    Consumers should conduct due diligence on tourist destinations and tour operators before paying for services and experiences that may harm animals, the environment and the local community. Basic firefly-watching etiquette includes the following:
    > Do not shine your torch at or use flash photography on the fireflies. This will disrupt their mating communications.
    > Enjoy the boat ride and avoid talking loudly, making unnecessary noise or smoking.
    > Enjoy the light show. Avoid catching the fireflies or disturbing the trees.
    > Please bring your litter out with you. Do not throw anything into the river.
    Tourists and consumers must exercise their right to protest against unethical practices by tour operators.
    If at any point during the boat ride the tour operator simulates firefly mating signals using flashlights, please speak up and insist that they stop doing so immediately. State that you will report their unethical and harmful practices to environmental organisations, state tourism authorities and travel websites.
    Write unfavourable reviews in travel forums to bring their unethical practices to light. It is our duty, as consumers, not to invest in cruelty, species extinction and environmental destruction. Responsible tourism begins with you and me.
    Wong Ee Lynn
    Green Living Special Interest Group

    thesundaily_my Sentifi Top 10 talked about stocks