Thursday, 25 October 2012

Flying High at the Festival of Wings 2012

The Malaysian Nature Society's (MNS) Festival of Wings 2012 is the 8th Festival of Wings we have conducted to date; the fifth Festival for which I am a volunteer; and the second one in which we conducted the Firefly Conservation and Awareness Programme.
Festival of Wings is a migratory bird festival organised annually in October by MNS with the support of the Kuala Selangor District Council, the Selangor State Government and the state tourism board, with the objective of creating environmental awareness on mangrove and forest ecosystems and on the importance of birds as bio-indicators.

Kuala Selangor is the ideal location for this event, not merely because the Kuala Selangor Nature Park is managed by MNS, but because of the amazing biodiversity and natural beauty in Kuala Selangor, a district known for its synchronous congregating firefly population.

 In 2011, I developed the Firefly Conservation and Awareness Programme with the assistance of Sonny, the MNS Head of Science and Conservation, along with my incredible volunteers, Liza Manshoor, Ilani Manshoor and Sheela Prabhakaran. We were happy to repeat the programme this year due to its success last year, and I am pleased to report that we received an encouraging response from the public at our booth and for our activities this year as well.

One of the side attractions at our Firefly Conservation Awareness Booth -- Games! In the Nerf gun challenge, visitors learn to identify threats to firefly habitats (which include the clearing of river reserves, large scale oil palm cultivation, unregulated sand mining activities, river widening for flood mitigation, water pollution and poor waste management) and shoot them down. They have to name at least one threat to firefly habitats before picking up their prize(s) to ensure that this doesn't descend into a gratuitous game of target practice. 

 The second challenge, the buzzwire challenge, helps visitors develop empathy for fireflies and acquire natural history knowledge in the process.

Informative posters on congregating firefly zones, firefly life cycles and major threats to firefly habitats and populations.

Folklore in bottles, to help visitors understand the cultural value and significance of fireflies. This one is a story from Central Luzon, about Alitaptap, the firefly princess.

Bilingual firefly bookmarks with natural history and conservation information designed by our awesome volunteer, Liza Manshoor. I just prepared and verified the text and got the bookmarks printed.

Aravind explaining threats to firefly habitats and populations to the youngsters, while Sheela explains the natural history of fireflies to another group of visitors.

Wise Macaque, he says: "A worm in banana is better than half a worm in tummy."

A rare quiet moment at the booth before we are besieged by schoolchildren and visitors again.

Our environmental educators Laila and Syuhada... all ready for Halloween, I see?

Schoolgirls trying their hand and shooting down threats to firefly habitats.

A view of the wetlands from the watchtower.

Monkeys, park benches and a lighthouse -- a combination that never goes wrong.

A mother silver leaf monkey and her golden-haired offspring at Bukit Malawati.

Green Living's Water Conservation Challenge was flagged off at noon on Sunday. Participants had to locate 12 laminated tags bearing pictures of water-wasting habits, and suggest alternatives and water saving measures in response to each picture. This contest was a test of speed and environmental know-how, and we had a full turnout for it.

Aravind and I taking down team positions after the Water Conservation Challenge.

The prizegiving ceremony for the Water Conservation Challenge was a joyous affair for the local schoolchildren who formed the majority of the participants. The 2nd place winners were all smiles when they saw the science kits and other prizes in their bag of goodies.

All the participants of the Water Conservation Challenge received a copy of the Green Living booklet and a Firefly Awareness bookmark each, so no effort was left unrewarded.


Young visitors trying out the buzzwire game at our Firefly Conservation & Awareness Booth.

An exhibit on mangrove flora and ecosystems by the schoolchildren. The drinking water bottles on the right hold different water samples for water quality testing.

A horseshoe crab in one of the mangrove exhibits set up by the schoolchildren. They assured me that they would release the horseshoe crab on Sunday evening.

And so another meaningful yet fun Festival of Wings came to an end on a rainy Sunday evening. But the Kuala Selangor Nature Park remains open to visitors all year around.

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park has been under the management of the Malaysian Nature Society since 1987. For more information, please contact:
Kuala Selangor Nature Park (KSNP)
Tel : (603) 3289 2294
Fax : (603) 3289 4311

Firefly Watching Etiquette:
1. Do not switch on bright lights. This includes lights from mobile phones and cameras.
2. Do not talk loudly or make unnecessary noise.
3. Do not try to catch or touch fireflies or break branches of trees to get a closer look.
4. Do not litter. Please bring your litter out with you.

 What You Can Do To Help Firefly Populations:
1. Switch off all unnecessary outdoor lighting.
2. Keep the environment clean and free of litter, especially near rivers, ponds and lakes.
3. Avoid using pesticides.
4. Use only natural fertilisers.
5. If you live near/beside Sg. Selangor, please avoid felling trees, clearing natural vegetation, farming activities that involve the use of chemicals and sand-mining on riverbanks.


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Where are the birds? I love them lots. They're yummy! purrr...meow!

Pat said...

Since all the pictures are from during the day - I must ask: DID you guys get to see any fireflies?

We have two fireflies that visit our garden. Once in every other blue moon :( Actually, I don't know if it is the SAME two every time lah! Hahahahah!

But, it makes Chuan and me infinitely happy when we see them :)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties from Sydney,
The birds were flying way up high, and I could not manage to get good photos of them using my compact camera. I am sure many of the birders got better pictures, and the photos should be available on the MNS website.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Pat,
Yes, we did see fireflies... roving ones at the MNS office in KL and at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park itself, and synchronous congregating ones at Sungai Selangor. They make everyone infinitely happy and awed at the miracles of life and creation and nature when we see them. Have you ever seen their larvae? Firefly larvae can be found on the ground, under blades of grass, and they glow as well.