Tag Archives: China

China: Headed for Endarkenment?

During summer 2016, some pretty alarming reports began circulating around the English-speaking world concerning commercial harvesting of Chinese fireflies from wild populations (see earlier post). In December, an international group of firefly experts called Fireflyers International Network (FIN) wrote a letter to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection denouncing this practice. In March 2017, after receiving a very thoughtful response from the Chinese government, I’ll admit I felt pretty encouraged.

A villager collects fireflies attracted to his motorcycle headlight (Jiangxi Province, 2016).

But, sadly, the future remains grim for Chinese fireflies.

According to this article by reporter Zeng Jinqiu for Beijing News, villagers in rural areas can still make a pretty penny harvesting adult fireflies. Unfortunately, these adults only live for about one week,  and once removed from their native habitat,  they’re unable to successfully reproduce.

Who is buying live Chinese fireflies? It looks like the biggest consumers are  giant new indoor amusement parks that have popped up in various cities, and which put on live firefly shows for paying customers.

Commercial firefly exhibitions in 2016

During 2016, over fifty commercial venues purchased live fireflies (wild-caught) for their exhibitions (map prepared by firefly conservation group, 萤火虫生态线)

We have arranged a meeting with the fireflies… After a long disappearance, fireflies suddenly appeared … thousands of fireflies flying, shining in the dark, as bright as the stars,”  announced a recent advertisement for MAG Universal Magic World, one  amusement park located in the city of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

During April 2017 this park hosted ten live firefly exhibitions. At each event, they displayed a few thousand fireflies, which were housed in glass bottles, shaken periodically to encourage flashing. Because each night many fireflies died, they were replaced with fresh ones.

In a single year, with similar large-scale exhibitions of live fireflies happening all over China (see map), the lights of several hundred thousand fireflies were permanently extinguished.

MAG fireflies in jar

Staffer at MAG Universal Magic World in Guangzhou shakes captive fireflies to elicit flashing

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Chinese Fireflies: An Encouraging Update

Many readers have spoken out against the commercial harvesting of wild fireflies in China, and nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for a ban on such activity. In October 2016, The International Firefly Scientist Network wrote to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection expressing our concerns about the negative impact of commercial harvesting on firefly biodiversity in China.

Last week, we received a  very thoughtful and encouraging response  from Mr. CHENG Lifeng, Director General of the Biodiversity Conservation Office.  I’m delighted to share with you the following excerpt: Continue reading

Harvesting Chinese Fireflies: Not Sustainable

By all reports, Chinese fireflies seem to be increasingly at risk from overharvesting. Last week, North First Park in Chengdu, China captured and released 100,000 fireflies to entertain visitors. The story, reported by Mao Yuting & Wu Xiaochuan in the Taiwanese  press, is translated below:

Chengdu park releases 100,000 fireflies: Expert says all will die within the week

“On the evening of June 25th, a firefly release event attracted many visitors to Chengdu North First Park. According to the event host, a total of 100,000 fireflies were released. At the scene, workers opened up a large glass box and fireflies flew out in unison, inciting great excitement among spectators. Some fireflies flew up, covering an area of the night sky with flickering green stars; some landed on the ground, where several children stooped to pick them up. More than a few spectators caught fireflies mid-flight and put them in bottles.

The following day, Director Zhao Li of the Huaxi Insectarium expressed his firm disapproval. According to the director, all of the 100,000 fireflies released will die within three to seven days. Fireflies have highly specific habitat requirements, and are unlikely to survive away from their native environment. Even if overall conditions are good, the new habitat should be tailored to address their needs, and an extended period of acclimation allowed. If nothing is done before the fireflies are released, the death rate will approach 100%.

chengdu ff release

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Loving Chinese fireflies to death?

china valentines day.jpg

For the past few years, online sales of live fireflies have skyrocketed just before Qixi, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. For many young Chinese, a jar of fireflies looks like a brilliant way to say “I love you.”

According to reports, more than 10 million Chinese fireflies were sold online in 2015, a tenfold rise compared with the same period the previous year. Costing a few hundred yuan, each  container holds 30-50 fireflies, most likely collected from the wild. But it makes a short-lived gift, because once they’re in captivity these fireflies will only survive a few days. Continue reading