Malaysia: Tree-cutting activities harming fireflies

New Straits Times 26 Sep 11;

KUANTAN: The mangrove forest reserve along Sungai Kuantan and its tributaries has been the sanctuary for firely colonies which have impressed local and foreign visitors.

However, encroachment and pollution may affect the sensitive ecosystem, especially the berembang trees, which are the natural "display" area for fireflies to get their mates.

"Fishermen here are cutting down the trees and using the berembang sticks to make bubu (fish and crab traps).

"They are not only breaking the law but have also put the firefly colonies at stake," said Leisure Boating Centre Sdn Bhd owner Loo Jen Yeh.

Loo is among the people who helped discover the favourite spots for firefly colonies here and organised boat trips to the mangrove area for local and foreign tourists.

He said the existence of fish processing factories, sawmills and squatter homes along the rivers had also brought adverse effects to the mangrove forest and might slowly kill the berembang trees.

"I hope the enforcement agencies make regular patrols along Sungai Kuantan and its tributaries to ensure that the town's natural attraction is preserved," he told the New Straits Times.

Fireflies normally flock to berembang trees, scientifically known as Sonneratia caseolaris, and flash their brightest and pulsating light to attract their mates.

Although the trees are the areas where they socialise, the whole mangrove forest is crucial as it is on the ground that the female fireflies lay their eggs and the larvae grow to become adults.

Local scientists have said conserving the berembang trees was insufficient to protect the firefly colonies as the insects may spend up to 80 per cent of their lifespan on the ground.