Pune: “Until a couple of years ago, I enjoyed going to the firefly festivals. Watching those small clusters of light was a beautiful experience. However, I stopped going after I realised how something meant for my entertainment was harming those tiny creatures,” said IT professional and environmental enthusiast Nikita Joshi.
Joshi and many individuals and organisations have taken a stand after it was highlighted how the undisciplined crowd at these festivals disturb the fireflies in the midst of their breeding season. While the firefly festivals are a huge hit among tourists and travel agents, environmentalists and travellers both have asserted the need to implement strict regulatory measures to control the crowd and protect the fireflies.
The firefly festivals are organised every year between the third week of May and mid-June. The firefly-hotspots are buzzing with crowds of all age-groups camping in the forests at nights to catch glimpses and photographs of the beautiful
“Fireflies are very sensitive beings. They can only be spotted in the areas that are forested and have moderately humid climate. They are mostly found in the Western Ghats in the Konkan belt and above,” said entomologist and Founder of Mitrakida Dr Rahul Marathe.
Crowds disturb fireflies
“The firefly festivals are not bad in concept, as such interventions make people aware of the wildlife. But the unregulated crowd at these events make things harmful for the insects,” Marathe stated.
As people wait in the dark for the fireflies to form clusters and flash, the people have been seen making extensive use of torch light, as well as camera flashes. “The fireflies make use of their glow to communicate, since it’s their breeding season. However, it gets difficult for them to interact when there is a lot of artificial light around them. Similarly, the presence of people in huge number, their noise, their body smell disturbs the area,” he added. He said there are several pockets where the number of fireflies has gone down due to large human intervention.
He said, “While the famous Kaas Plateau in Satara has been ruined due to many reasons, it is also a lesser-known fact that earlier, fireflies could be seen in huge numbers there. However, with increasing tourism and overcrowding of the area, the fireflies seem to have shifted their base from there. Such is the story of many forested areas in Konkan as well, that are being frequented by people.”
While the fireflies are an indigenous species, if their breeding continues to be disturbed due to these festivals, their numbers might drop drastically.
Need for regulatory measures
“When anything is done in excess, it is bound to have an adverse effect. Just telling people not to visit these festivals is not enough, because people will find ways to go in some way or the other. We need to implement restrictive measures, like it is done in the case of tiger reserves, and other national parks,” Marathe explained. Reacting to the same, Travel Agents Association of Pune Director Nilesh Bhansali said that there is a huge divide between the travel agents as well, as to whether to continue these festivals or not.
“I believe that restricted entry is the need of the hour as it will otherwise destroy a beautiful thing in nature. Also, at the same time, the government needs to intervene to protect these creatures. Instead of allowing anybody to walk into the forest for spotting fireflies, the government can introduce a system of licensing, where only a few agencies or organisations, genuinely concerned, will be able to take people in the forest, may be only a particular number per day,” Bhansali added.
Marathe said there is a need to monitor continuously whether the number of fireflies is getting affected by the festivals or not. If yes, the measures need to be implemented at the earliest.