Hordes of tourists on river cruises affecting fireflies
November 17, 2015, Tuesday
KOTA KINABALU: The current practice among tour operators to bring large numbers of tourists for river cruise and fireflies watching is threatening the survival of the species, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.
He said it is of some concern that the increasing popularity of night river cruise packages for firefly watching among the tourists seemed to have a negative impact on the population of the insect. “In the name of tourism, we are destroying the very reason why we have tourists coming in,” he said when speaking at the seminar on Firefly and Tourism Sustainability at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here yesterday.
Masidi lamented that he has received complaints that the number of fireflies in certain popular tourism spots, such as Sungai Klias has significantly declined over the years. Speaking to reporters later, he said the decrease in firefly population in Klias might have been caused by the uncontrolled and unsystematic way of bringing tourists to cruise the river.
“I was told that we could have up to 50 tour buses of tourists in one day, the river must be overcrowded with boats and perhaps noisy tourists. We need to find the right carrying capacity and start limiting the number of tourists that can be brought in daily. Maybe UMS can help us to identify what is the right number that will not affect the population of the fireflies. They can also conduct studies that can help us better understand the species, what they like and don’t like, how we can have tourism in their habitat without affecting their population,” he said.
Sabah is blessed for being among the few places in the world to have abundant populations of fireflies and the tiny bioluminescent insect has been an iconic product that rakes in millions in tourism receipts for the State every year.
Commonly known as ‘kunang-kunang’ in local language, fireflies are neither flies nor bugs, but are actually beetles that flash to attract mates or prey. Fireflies tend to be dark brown and soft-bodied, and often with the elytra, or front wings, more leathery than those of other beetles.
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