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[Special Report] Fireflies Are Back in Taipei!

2017/04/05
A Mission Impossible – Accomplished

Text: Vision Photos: Karen Chiu

Nature lovers and eco-tourists visiting Taiwan are well aware of the fact that Taiwan has an amazingly rich ecological environment. The island is a paradise for bird and butterfly lovers, and thanks to its unique topography and climatic conditions there is a staggering variety of flora and fauna to explore.
Protection of the environment is taken seriously in Taiwan nowadays, and efforts by the government and private enterprises have been successful in creating nature reserves and cleaning up areas that have suffered from human encroachment.
The city of Taipei is surrounded by mountains covered with thick forests, and it often just takes a quick bus ride out of the city center to access trailheads from where you can start eco-excursions into an enchanting natural world. However, you don’t even have to leave central Taipei to find small sanctuaries where birds thrive and butterflies flutter about.
One example is the large Da’an Park, served by MRT Daan Park Station. It is surrounded on four sides by heavy-traffic arteries, but that does not deter a large number of waterfowl, including various types of ducks and herons, from making the park their home. To the delight of bird photographers, many of these beautiful birds can be seen up close on and around a large artificial pond, which has a small island in its center. What many people don’t know, however, is that Da’an Park has recently also become a home to fireflies!
Fireflies are a common sight in other parts of the island, especially the Alishan National Scenic Area, where they can be seen from March to June. The recent revival of those light-emitting insects in Taipei is thanks to efforts by the city government to introduce them to selected parks after the city gained the right to host the 2017 International Firefly Symposium. In order to make fireflies feel at home in Da’an Park, the park has been equipped with firefly-friendly LED street lights that are bright enough to light paths for pedestrians but do not deter the light-sensitive insects. With the reintroduction of fireflies to the center of the city, Taipei has become the most densely populated area where these fascinating creatures can be seen. Considering that Da’an Park is visited by 10,000 people on average each day, the reintroduction of fireflies has been described as “mission impossible accomplished.”

Note: Nature lovers interested in going to the park to get a glimpse of the glimmering fireflies are reminded that flashlights and cellphone lights should not be used, and that visitors should keep quiet at all times to avoid disturbing the insects.

The International Firefly Symposium 2017 (IFS 2017) will be held April 24-28 in Taipei. This is the first time the event is being hosted by Taipei. The gathering will bring together firefly researchers from around the world to exchange their professional experiences and learn about the latest accomplishments in firefly research. Participants are invited to go on a free field trip to the Alishan National Scenic Area, where two-thirds of all firefly species in Taiwan have been recorded. For more information about the symposium, visit www.ifs2017taipei.org

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