Images and report by Lim Kim Chye
The success of the Ulu Geroh Rafflesia project has prompted Perak Branch to look for another conservation initiative to lend active support. Recently this quest has concluded and we now have funding from Ramsar Regional Center – East Asia (RRC-EA) to carry out a conservation project related to fireflies and mangroves. The project, titled “Best practices in local community-based firefly watching ecotourism as part of mangroves rivers conservation” is a partnership involving MNS Conservation Unit, MNS Perak Branch and Global Environment Centre (GEC).
Boat with bakau logs
The overall objective of this project is to conserve the fast disappearing mangrove river habitats in Malaysia through firefly-watching ecotourism involving the local communities. The aim is to develop a firefly watching ecotourism model involving the local community along Sg. Sepetang which can be replicated in other firefly sites in Malaysia. The project will also train the community in ecotourism management and will help with the formation of a stakeholders committee to ensure sustainable use of Sg. Sepetang.
The 6 month project started in January 2011 with a 2 day programme at the pilot site in Kg Dew, near Taiping, Perak. Kg. Dew is located along Sg. Sepetang, where firefly-watching activities on a limited scale are being carried out by some boatmen from the nearby villages.
Documenting firefly species
On 21 January, MNS Senior Scientific Officer Sonny Wong, MNS Perak Vice-Chairman Lee Ping Kong and Lim Kim Chye carried out a survey of Sg Sepetang to observe the land-use and to assess the firefly congregations. En. Khairul Salleh, the Secretary of the Kg Dew firefly-watching ecotourism group, took us downstream for about 6 km.
Project discussion on Sg. Sepetang
We were very pleased with the spectacular firefly show we saw as the boat slowly returned upstream when night fell. All along the river, often on both banks, the mangroves were lit up by hundreds of fireflies sparkling in unison. As Ping Kong commented, the scene was like the famous Kg. Kuantan firefly river twenty years ago. It was very encouraging to see that despite the rubbish we saw upstream, the lower reaches of Sg. Sepetang still had good quality mangroves that attracted healthy populations of fireflies.
Dialogue with local community
The next day we had a dialogue session with the Kg. Dew community. Sonny presented a slide show on MNS and on fireflies and then introduced the project to the 16 villagers present. Some useful feedback on the project was obtained from the exchange of ideas, comments and suggestions.
We stressed on the need for the villagers involved in firefly ecotourism to officially form a focus group for long-term sustainability. The villagers will further discuss this matter amongst themselves and will report back at the next meeting in February 2011.