MALAYSIAN NATURALIST, SEPT 2018
THEY CAME from all over, and from a range of interests, but all for the sharing of knowledge and skills that have made these non-urban local communities a voice that’s getting louder for the sake of environmental conservation. And when they met at World Firefly Day 2018 in Kuala Selangor, the first such celebration for these bioluminescent beetles that almost get lost by the wayside, it was the first for most of the community members to discover that they were not alone, and far from forgotten.
Indeed, as also launched during World Firefly Day was Komuniti PAKAS, a grouping under Pusat Aktiviti Kesedaran Alam Sekitar or Environmental Awareness Activity Centre. A sister initiative to the Malaysian Nature Society’s Urban Community Forest (UCF), PAKAS is focused on local communities living within and near environmentally sensitive areas in rural and non-urban areas.
Those gathered included the Wetlands Community, represented by the Penang Inshore Fishermen’s Welfare Association (PIFWA) and Sahabat Hutan Bakau (Friends of Mangroves) from Kuala Sepetang; the Flyway Community – Sungai Buloh Sasaran village and Sahabat Hutan Gambut (Friends of the Peat Swamp) from the Raja Musa Forest Reserve; the Wildlife Community – Sahabat Raja Rimba (Friends of the Tiger) from Merapoh in Pahang and Sahabat Beruang Matahari (Friends of the Sun Bear) from Trolak, Perak.
Alongside them were the Firefly Community – Inspirasi Kawa and Persatuan Pendayung Kampung Kuantan, while Kuala Sepetang Ecotourism’s Cikgu Kairul shared his experience on firefly tourism and Cherating’s “firefly whisperer” Hafiz shared his years of drawing fireflies, and tourists, to his small corner of Malaysia. Then there were MNS’s own, namely its ecoCare Kertih environmental education centre as part of the wetland warriors, and MNS Selangor Branch Nature Guides.
Among the highlights was the firefly introduction from MNS Wetlands-Marine Programme Manager Sonny Wong, where the audience heard that these beetles could be traced back to the time of the dinosaurs (the Mesozoic era, specifically, 66 million to 250 million years ago). There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies in the world, but there are gaps in the numbers found in Malaysia, owing to lack of research (which means each firefly sighting could be extra special!). He went on to stress the importance of protecting firefly habitats, which comprises not only the trees they prefer, but also the ecological health of the environment that provides them with their food supply.
The audience also heard from Zulkifli Soho from Kampung Endah, the first MNS PAKAS community to be established in 2000. Situated just off the Selangor coast 3km from Morib beach, Kampung Endah began humbly, but has risen in prominence as a homestay destination with “nature extras”, including night nature walks, birding trips, introduction to herbal plants, information on mangrove ecology, beach explorations, organic horticulture and 3R commitment.
Representing the local boys was Inspirasi Kawa, a group from Mukim Pasangan, the area in which Kampung Kuantan is situated. Made up of a mix of young and old, including those rowing the firefly tour boats and local youths, the group has grown from strength to strength since it started in 2013, running their own nursery, replanting trees and being in the public eye with monthly river cleaning sessions. And they’re not blink-and-you’ll-miss-it events, either, as the cleaning takes up a whole day and a multitude of boats, rowers and volunteers, with the group collecting more than 2,000kg of rubbish up until 2018.
Other topics touched upon were sustainability (for example, Sahabat Raja Rimba’s flower craft from the leaf of the rubber tree), drawing in sponsors and raising funds, the management of volunteers (how ecoCare Kertih primarily conducts its activities), PIFWA’s 24 years of experience in planting mangroves and the issue of open burning (Sahabat Hutan Gambut).
This isn’t the last time that Komuniti PAKAS will be meeting. Thanks to some little, twinkly insect, ground has been laid to allow local communities from various ecologically sensitive areas around Peninsular Malaysia to become the voice for nature. And we hope this voice soon will crescendo to protect our forests and biodiversity.