Conservation of Congregating Firefly Zones (CFZs) in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak

Choong-Hay Wong & Chin-Aik Yeap

Malaysian Nature Society, PO Box 10750, 50724 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

ABSTRACT

Malaysia is known to support populations of the unique congregating fireflies of the genus Pteroptyx. However, the current distribution of these fireflies and their colonies largely remains undocumented. Pteroptyx spp. are found along the inter-tidal mangrove river systems. These habitats are not only important ecologically but also provide ecotourism opportunities to the local communities because of the unique flashing behaviour of the fireflies. The habitats of these fireflies are fast disappearing in Malaysia, hence a need to document them and generate awareness of their importance amongst local governments and agencies responsible for managing Malaysian rivers. Thus, between July 2009 to May 2010, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) began documenting Congregating Firefly Zones (CFZs), their land use status, threats, ecotourism potential and other characteristics. Twenty eight major CFZs were surveyed in Peninsular Malaysia. Ten CFZs were surveyed in Sarawak. Most of the CFZs support one to four congregating firefly species. The number of CFZs is higher on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, with more than twenty different display tree species recorded. Four main threats were identified, which are river widening for flood mitigation, agriculture (e.g. oil palm), aquaculture ponds (shrimp and fish), and strong light sources from shrimp ponds, swift houses and other infrastructure. MNS hopes to present the results of these surveys to the relevant authorities to sensitise them to the existence of these fireflies and the need to conserve and manage their habitat in a more sustainable manner.

tags: Firefly, Pteroptyx, distribution, conservation, ecotourism, Malaysia