As the second largest state in peninsula Malaysia, MNS Perak branch shoulders heavy responsibility of covering a hefty 21,006 km² land bank. At critical points where forest and environment are threatened, we have kept up with frequent visits and reports to the authorities. For time being, our attention are drawn to following sites.
Congregating Firefly Zones (CFZ)
by Sonny Wong
Senior Conservation Officer
MNS association with the fireflies started in 1970 with the ‘discovery’ of congregating fireflies by Dr Ivan Polunin along the Sungai Selangor. Since then, MNS helped the local community in Kampong Kuantan create the first Malaysia’s firefly watching ecotourism.
With the disturbance of Sungai Selangor firefly habitat and the current imminent threats to the riparian and mangrove forest, MNS began a firefly and habitat conservation initiative. Firstly, it is to document the current existing congregating firefly zones (CFZ) which is the extant of congregating fireflies along both banks of a river in Malaysia. In 2009, MNS found that Perak, has several major CFZs as shown below:
Secondly, identify rivers with firefly watching potentials and help the local communities set up firefly watching activities as part of mangrove river stewardship while enjoying the economic returns in a sustainable and wise use of natural resources.
Thirdly, basic research on firefly ecology and habitat will be on going to know how they can survive in the case of a need of habitat rehabilitation apart from the advancement of science. Next will be awareness of firefly and mangrove habitat which will be for all levels. Finally, to work with the government to gazette major CFZs for protection of firefly habitats like in Sungai Selangor.
Below is a brief description of the major CFZ surveyed in Perak.
Overall, Sungai Bernam have a potential for firefly watching activity, and according to the boatmen it goes all the way to Sabak Bernam from Hutan Melintang as marked on the map. Three species were recorded, one is synchronous in flashing and two non synchronous. Perak side of the river banks have more fireflies compared to the Selangor banks which may be due to more river reserves. The riverbank are however fragmented and with thin layer of mangroves. Economic activities like shrimp farms, plantations and port have disturbed much of the CFZ. Strong light areas from the port, shrimp farms have no fireflies.
Kuala Sungai Perak
The riverbank is very disturb and cleared for shrimp farms and oil palm and may have reduced the firefly population. Only the bakau at the river mouth have better buffers. Although the opposite banks are cleared, some trees still support some fireflies. A total of 3 species observed, one type of synchronous firefly and the other non synchronous. The third firefly may be another type of firefly.
Sungai Dedap tributary
The vegetation of Sungai Dedap is still intact at the time of survey and quite an extant of CFZ as marked on the map. Crocodiles are present here according to the boatman. The fireflies are observed to be of synchronous congregating firefly only. Along the main Perak river the habitat is disturbed with small colonies of fireflies. A former firefly watching area which is now quite unknown.
Sungai Bidor tributary
Overall, the condition of the upper stream of Sg Perak is degraded, due to the sand mining and flood mitigation and bunding for oil palm plantation, all these activities destroyed the buffer zones. The fireflies are disappearing according to the boatmen. The only area with small firefly colonies is at the man-made canals. Other areas are just remnants of firefly colonies on single trees. Two species were observed in Sg Perak. In Sg Bidor 2 species were observed, one non-synchronous and another non-synchronous. The extant of the CFZ is long as marked on the map.
This river has lots of water hyacinths along the river banks, it has a potential to be an firefly watching site. There exist two firefly species and in some trees both species are on the same tree with good firefly density. One is synchronous and another non-synchronous. The firefly habitat are bordered by plantations. There are bright light sources along the river.
Kuala Gula area
The non synchronous fireflies are along the bund of canals. There are two to three species of fireflies here. The mangroves reserves are still relatively undisturbed. The waters support glowing dinoflagellates.
About 30 years ago, the Sungai Sitiawan and Sungai Deralik river have a lot of fireflies. This firefly habitat was destroyed, now with a thin mangrove buffer zones and wetlands upstream is being encroached upon by urban expansion and shrimp farms, vegetable farms and oil palm plantations. The firefly population may not have a chance to recover and an uncommon species may disappeared forever. Landuse is high and most of the buffers are threatened especially upstream.