Saturday, March 24, 2007

Light Dims for Fireflies along Sungai Kuantan

KUANTAN: Unlike their better known cousins in Kuala Selangor, the fireflies in the mangrove swamps along Sungai Kuantan, and its tributary Sungai Belat, receive little attention. But like their cousins their numbers are rapidly falling.

"There used to be thousands of them, but in the past two years the numbers have gone down," said Loo Jen Yeh whose company, LBC Sdn Bhd, has been organising boat trips to watch the fireflies along the two rivers since 2002.

The most popular site is a one-kilometre stretch of Sungai Belat just before it meets Sungai Kuantan. Thousands of fireflies used to illuminate the swamp, but now there are only a few.

Assistant tourist guide Kamaruddin Abdullah blames pollution and encroachment in the mangrove areas.

"There are illegal settlements along the riverbank," said the 52-year-old. "The people there, and the fishermen, often throw used engine oil and rubbish into the river."

Both Kamaruddin and Loo also said the number of tourists visiting the area had more than halved because of the dwindling firefly population. As well as pollution, Loo blamed uncontrolled viewing trips. He said he did not allow visitors to use flash cameras, make noise or smoke.

"But now other operators are organising trips without such restrictions. This can scare the insects off," he said.

Inderapura state assemblyman Shafik Fauzan Sharif, who organised a trip to view the fireflies for newsmen on Thursday night, said he would bring the issue to the attention of the authorities.

He suggested that the Kuantan Municipal Council and Forest Research Institute Malaysia conduct a study on the fireflies here.

Source : NST
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