August 10, 2010
Shedding light on fireflies
MALAYSIA is the only country to have developed a monitoring programme for
fireflies and the programme has been carried out monthly since 2006 in the ecotourism destination of Kuala
Natural Resources and Environment ministry secretary-general Datuk Zoal Azha Yusof
said this in his speech read by Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif
Mohmod at the opening of the Second International Firefly Symposium 2010 in Subang Jaya, Selangor,
Dr Abd Latif said the information and statistics collected through the FRIM
firefly monitoring programme had enabled the institute to notify the state authorities of disturbances to the
firefly habitats in 2008.
"With the firefly monitoring programme, we were able to alert the state of
disturbances in the area and also provide evidence-based recommendations on conservation measures," he
Good stuff: Dr Abd Latif (second from left) having a look at the Firefly Stamps
issued by Pos Malaysia on May 10, 2010, at the International Firefly Symposium
As a result, the Selangor government had taken positive steps last year to gazette
up to 100m from the river bank as a protection zone and also initiated the acquisition of private land along the
river bank in Tanjung Beluntas.
The FRIM firefly monitoring programme focuses on seven sites covering 1.6km along
the Selangor River from Bukit Belimbing to areas beyond Kampung Kuantan.
Dr Abd Latif said he was proud of FRIM's contributions to the firefly conservation
efforts and said the principles and techniques involved in the monitoring method developed and refined by FRIM
researchers were shared for the first time with other researchers and conservationists at the symposium.
FRIM entomologist Dr Laurence G. Kirton, who heads the firefly studies, said the
method used a highly-sensitive digital camera mounted on a special tripod to capture the flashes of the fireflies
from a great distance and image analysis software to interpret the images.
According to him, the final step requires calculations and calibration to ensure
The data compiled will indicate the abundance of the firefly population as well as
the health of the environment which supports the population.
So far, the researchers have been able to analyse natural fluctuations due to
changing weather patterns from one year to another.
"We can tell that there will always be a dip in the population in October,
probably due to the drier months during the mid-year and the population will increase again by December and peak
from May to August."
"However, over a longer period of between five and 10 years, we will be able to
see the trend more clearly, whether there is an increase or a decline in the firefly population and possibly relate
it to the happenings around this area," Dr Kirton said.
The four-day symposium, jointly organised by FRIM and the Malaysian Nature Society
(MNS), was attended by some 100 participants including firefly experts, researchers and conservationists from all
over the world.
Source: The Star