Fireflyers International Network – Malaysian Nature Society presents, World Firefly Day 2021 (Day 1 – 3rd July 2021)


Firefly Tourism and Conservation

Saturday, July 3, 2021

 7:30-10:30AM EST (North America) / 1:30-4:30PM CEST (Europe)
7:30-10:30PM (Malaysia) / 9:30PM-12:30AM (Australia)

07:30 (UTC+8)   Zoom meeting opens; firefly folk songs; attendance registration

07:40 (UTC+8)   Welcome message from FIN chair Dr. Sara Lewis

07:45 (UTC+8)   Sponsor message; Dr. Kazuhiko Sano, Asahi Kasei Corporation, Japan

07:50 (UTC+8)   Official WffD launch by MNS president Dr. Ahmad Ismail

07.55 (UTC+8)   WffD Launch Video

08:00 (UTC+8)   FIREFLY FORUM 1.0: Firefly tourism and conservation

08:10 (UTC+8)   Keynote, Dr. Hum Gurung – The magic of fireflies and their tourism potential

08:20 (UTC+8)   Avalon C.S. Owens – Lightning in a bottle: Firefly conservation in the 21st century

08:30 (UTC+8)   Dr. Anchana Tancharoen – Firefly tourism and conservation

08:40 (UTC+8)   Tania López-Palafox – Community-building fireflies: A look beyond the sparkles

08:50 (UTC+8)   A special video from the Matlatzinca community, Mexico: Nanosapiens, Laboratoria Zaragosa

09:00 (UTC+8)   Intermission, TNB message, firefly folk songs

09:10 (UTC+8)   Vor Yiu  – Report from the 2020-2021 Hong Kong firefly survey team

09:20 (UTC+8)   Peggy Butler – Firefly tourism in Pennsylvania: “Be careful what you wish for!”

09:30 (UTC+8)   Panel discussion and Q&A

10:00 (UTC+8)   FIN fundraising; Radim Schreiber, Firefly Experience

10:10 (GMT+8)  MNS book launch: The Butterflies of Malay Peninsula (5th ed)

10:30 (GMT+8)  Announcements of day two events, end of day one


Fireflies are charismatic beetles with attractive bioluminescent courtship displays that have recently been swept onto the global stage of nature tourism. In a recent study, many FIN members estimated that in the last few years over one million tourists have travelled annually to sites in at least 12 countries for the explicit purpose of seeing fireflies.

Firefly tourism can bring immense environmental and economic benefits to rural communities, just as these charismatic insects bring delight to visitors. However, rapid proliferation of firefly tourism activities could impact local firefly populations, especially vulnerable species.

By adopting best practices for sustainable firefly tourism, local caretakers of firefly sites can earn stable incomes while protecting and rehabilitating native habitats. Firefly komunitis can spread the knowledge and appreciation needed to conserve firefly populations, so that future generations can continue to admire them.

Following the keynote, several speakers from countries and organizations working to promote sustainable firefly tourism worldwide will share their experiences, and offer advice on managing human-firefly interactions. The forum will conclude with an extended question and answer session with participation from expert panelists.


Keynote: The Magic of Fireflies and Tourism Potentials

Dr Hum Gurung obtained Master degree (Hons) in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from Lincoln University, New Zealand and a PhD on Environmental Science from Griffith University, Australia.  He is currently regional project manager and provides strategic leadership & network development for BirdLife International across the Asia region.  He has worked as National Programme Manager of Capacity 21 project, Chief Executive Officer of Bird Conservation Nepal and Senior Policy Advisor to Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project led by IUCN, UNEP and UNDP. Dr Gurung’s conservation journey started three decades ago from the internationally renowned and award winning Annapurna Conservation Area Project in Nepal.

Talk description: Fireflies are disappearing rapidly around the globe and perhaps one of the least studied insects in the scientific community.  Until now 2200 species of fireflies have been recorded globally and more action research is required to find out their status, behaviour and conservation threats.  The biochemical emission of fireflies known as bioluminescence attracts people of all walks of lives and they have been embedded in our societies through songs, poems and stories. Over one million visitors visit at different firefly sites in Southeast Asia annually and there is a huge tourism potentials across the globe.  However, firefly conservation is a prerequisite to promote firefly tourism and environmental education is key to generate more interest on their conservation and harness tourism potentials.

1. Lightning in a bottle: Firefly conservation in the 21st century

Avalon C.S. Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biology at Tufts University, where she studies the impact of light pollution on North American fireflies. She earned her Masters degree in Entomology from National Taiwan University, and hosts a bilingual educational YouTube channel called INSECT[昆蟲島]ISLAND. She is a member of the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and Fireflyers International Network webmaster.

Talk description: Why do fireflies flash? Because they want to be seen! But their unique bioluminescent signals can be obscured by street lamps, house lights, and other sources of nighttime light pollution — and if we’re not careful, our lights might extinguish theirs forever. Join entomologist Avalon C.S. Owens for a discussion of this and other threats facing one of the world’s most widely loved insects, and learn some simple solutions that can help fireflies coexist with humans for centuries to come.




2. Firefly Tourism and Conservation

Dr. Anchana Thancharoen is an instructor in the Department of Entomology, Kasetsart University. She has been conducting firefly research in Thailand for 24 years to achieve the goal of ‘firefly conservation’ in Thailand. She ran many firefly training programs for tour operators, local residents and children to manage firefly tourism. She is the South East Asia co-chair of the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and a member of the Fireflyers International Network.

Talk description: Recently, fireflies became an economic insect due to ‘firefly tourism’. The fireflies will be conserved to earn the benefits. There are many firefly watching sites all over the world. They display different beauty from different firefly species. There needs to be a balance for firefly resource utilization and conservation and consideration for sustainable tourism. The guidelines for being good practices for tourism were recently defined by firefly scientists. We can all save the fireflies together!


3. Community-building fireflies: a look beyond the sparkles

Tania López-Palafox, is a Ph.D. candidate from Institute of Ecology at National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM. Her line of research focuses on sexual selection and population genetics of Photinus palaciosi, an endemic species from Mexico. She obtained a master in science degree from the same university studying the evolution of anti- predatory strategies of the Lycaenidae family of butterflies. She is the Center/Meso-America chair of the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and Fireflyers International Network member.

Talk description:  Tourist activities around firefly sightings have grown exponentially in recent years. Ecotourism can be an activity that enables the economic and social development of local communities, while promoting the conservation of the areas visited, but, what positive and negative impacts can our tourism activities have on local communities? This is a good opportunity to bring to the table these complex issues that are so important to both, fireflies and those who coexist with them.




3a. Special video from the Matlatzinca community

 A project by Nanosapiens group & Laboratorio Zaragoza, Instituto de Biología (IB)-UNAM, México.

Click here to watch another animated video inspired by the firefly celebration ceremony that the Matlatzinca perform in June (narrated in the local language).

4. Report from the 2020-2021 Hong Kong firefly survey team

Vor Yiu has been working on fireflies of Hong Kong since 2007, more focused on taxonomy and ecology. He authored the website “ “and the book “Fireflies of Hong Kong”. He established the first Hong Kong Firefly Survey Team on 2020 World Firefly Day. He is the Red List Authority of the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and the Honorary Treasurer of the Fireflyers International Network.

Talk description: After 210 field surveys, looking at 23 different sites, 432 km of survey distance, what have the 34 team members found?






5. Firefly Tourism in Pennsylvania: “Be Careful What You Wish For!”

Peggy Butler is a co-founder and the Board Secretary of the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, Inc. (PAFF). In 2012, my husband Ken and I were running a Bed & Breakfast in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) when we received a call from Lynn Faust of Tennessee who wanted to come to study our fireflies in June.  We had no idea what was so special about our “lightning bugs”, but we welcomed the Firefly International Research and Education (FIRE) Team. The FIRE team spent 10 nights, and later confirmed the existence of the Synchronous Fireflies throughout the ANF along with 18 other species.  We were bitten by the “bug”, and along with several other local residents embraced the idea of starting a local event to celebrate the Synchronous Fireflies.  The non-profit PA Firefly Festival Inc. organization’s mission is to educate the public about fireflies through an annual festival celebration, and it has changed the course of our lives.  We educated ourselves and relied on the expertise of firefly researchers like Lynn Faust, Sara Lewis, Sarah Lower, Avalon Owens and many more to help us learn and present information to raise public awareness in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Talk description: Peggy will talk about the pros and cons of Firefly Tourism in Pennsylvania.  She will share stories of how the PAFF has grown and evolved; the pitfalls and successes.  The PA Firefly Festival had been growing in attendance every year by 100s, and once it reached over 1000 people for one night, they knew there was a problem.  Obviously, PAFF could not sustain that level and was endangering both the organization and moreover the fireflies.  They started implementing practices and controls which helped reduce the crowds, but it was still too many.  Then came the Pandemic of 2020.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise; “a sheep in wolf’s clothing.”  It allowed PAFF to hit the “reset” button for a new normal and focus on the priority of conservation. We seem to have found an optimum balance between tourism and conservation. This way, PAFF can both maintain itself while responsibly providing firefly experiences and education for the public for years to come.  By sharing this story, PAFF hopes others can learn from our mistakes and will be able to avoid some of them when planning their firefly events.


Dr. Oliver Keller received his PhD from the University of Florida where he investigated the fireflies of the West Indies. These islands located in the Caribbean basin are a hotspot for fireflies and are home to over 180 species of these enigmatic insects. Currently he works in the Florida State Collection of Arthropods for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He helps with ongoing collection improvement projects and the curation of the beetle collection. His ongoing research with lampyrids includes the immature stages of fireflies from the Americas and an update of the last World Lampyridae catalog. He is active on social media and promotes fireflies daily on his Twitter account (@dr_firefly). He is an IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and Fireflyers International Network member.

Register here

Find out more about the World Firefly Day event which will be celebrated worldwide by members of Firefly International Network here at the MNS World Firefly Day MY facebook page. Be part of the World Firefly Day 2021 Firefly Forum 1.0. Click here for registration:

For more information of the book, please visit ShopMNS.