THE rapid decrease in the number of fireflies in Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor, can be noticed visually by those familiar with the area.
However, according to Shahril Adlan Ahmad, 42, a senior boatman at the Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Park, the decline had not affected the tourism business.
Shahril, who has been ferrying tourists along Sungai Selangor every night to see fireflies for the last two decades, said the lightning bugs had transformed the once sleepy village into a thriving tourist attraction over the last 30 years.
“As I spend my nights taking tourists from all around the world on a daily basis, I do see a difference from when I first started and now.
“I would say there are 10 to 20 per cent fewer fireflies.
“This can be attributed to air and water pollution on this stretch of Sungai Selangor, as well as the opening of forest areas.
“Back in 2005, there was a clearing of forest land near the riverbanks to plant oil palm trees.
“The firefly population was threatened and the numbers dropped drastically.
“We protested the clearing as we did not want the fireflies to become extinct.
“The insect’s eggs are laid in the ground and we also wanted to keep the mangrove trees, which are their home.
“Thankfully, our objections were heard and the project was stopped. It took four to five years to rehabilitate the firefly population.
“We want this ‘golden’ treasure of Kuala Selangor to last forever.
However, the declining number of fireflies had not affected the number of tourists flocking to Kampung Kuantan to admire the lightning bugs on mangrove trees, likened to twinkling Christmas trees, in their 30-minute ride, where boatmen row 500m downstream on their boats.
“It is great that tourists are coming in droves.
“Therefore, it is important that we do all we can to ensure that the firefly population continues to multiply,” said Shahril, who is also a Kuala Selangor District Council staff member.
Echoing Shahril was Masbudi Abdul Malek, 31, who has been a boatman for the past five years.
“I feel that there is a loss of about 10 per cent of fireflies, but the situation is not at a worrying or critical level yet.
“I believe the number of fireflies can be boosted through holistic approaches and efforts by the authorities.
“The situation can be remedied and I would not say that one day, the fireflies will disappear forever.”
Another boatman, Saian Abdul Ghani, 69, who has been working since 1987, however, took a different stand about the supposed declining number of fireflies.
Saian, whose house once fronted the park’s jetty, believed that one needed to row deeper downstream to see more fireflies.
“We need the area to be pitch dark to see the fireflies so we have to row further to see more.
“I do not think the population has decreased. The fireflies are there, just that we cannot see more of them due to lights coming from the jetty.
“We do not encourage tourists to make noise. We also discourage them from using cameras or torch lights, but we cannot stop people from using them.
“That could be why the fireflies have gone elsewhere, away from the gazetted park.
“I do not think the fireflies will go extinct. My family has been living here for more than five generations, spanning about 100 years.
“The fireflies have been here since then and they will remain.
“I am confident that even in the next generation, they will continue to exist.
Over at the Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Park, there are 31 boatmen who work under Kelab Pendayung Kelip-Kelip Kampung Kuantan, managed by Tenaga Warisan Sdn Bhd, which pays them a monthly salary and commission based on ticket sales.
The boatmen begin their rides downstream from 8pm to 11pm, catering to hundreds of visitors on weekdays and thousands during the weekends and public holidays.
The boats, which can carry up to four passengers each, depart from the jetty every five minutes.