Searching for Fireflies
Article｜Tu Xinyi Photos｜Huang Chienpin, Wang Yijie
“As far as I know, of all the world’s high-population cities, Taipei is one of only a couple to get fireflies to return again,” says the Director of Friends of Daan Forest Park Foundation (財團法人大安森林公園之友基金會), Guo Chengmeng (郭城孟) with pride and gratification in his eyes.
▲ Guo looks forward to seeing fireflies twinkling in Taipei again, creating an Ecotherapy city with a vibrant ecology. (Photo: Huang Chienpin)
In 2014, a group of Taiwanese experts and scholars introduced the Taiwanese firefly restoration project at the International Firefly Festival in Florida, USA, and everything they said stunned people the world over. There might have been other firefly conservation achievements elsewhere, but to reintroduce a long-gone population is almost impossible, especially in cities. It basically requires a miracle, but Taipei has made it happen.
▲ The clear water of Liougong Canal helps bring fireflies back to Rongxing Garden Park. (Photo: Huang Chienpin)
Restoration in Bloom – Bringing Back the Flickering Nights of 25 Years Ago
“Wherever you look in Taipei, the long road always ends in green mountains.” Guo has been to many places, such as New York, Shanghai, Berlin, Switzerland, Paris and London, but he believes Taipei has the best potential to be an eco-therapy city.
▲ The firefly restoration eco-pool in Rongxing Garden Park. (Photo: Huang Chienpin)
Taipei was once a lake which, later on, Han people cultivated into a system of continuous rice fields, with fireflies flying freely. Ying Qiao (螢橋), which literally means“firefly bridge,”in the Zhongzheng District is proof positive that fireflies once existed here. Urban development and the concrete jungle destroyed the insect’s habitat, and it gradually moved into the mountains. Rongxing Garden Park (榮星花園公園), in spring and fall, for example, had a little corner of faintly flashing green lights. But when the former habitat was destroyed by human beings, mosquitoes and bugs came to outnumber the fireflies. People got to know it as a stinky ditch without noticing what a real treasure it had been.
▲ After a long process of restoration, signs of fireflies have appeared in Taipei again. (Photo: Wang Yijie)
Over 20 years ago, Yang Pingshi (楊平世), honorary professor of entomology at National Taiwan University (國立台灣大學), successfully reintroduced fireflies to the area. Now, talking about it, he can’t help but sigh. “Back then, the government was planning on having the pond filled and leveled. But when I went there, I saw fireflies and thought that, if the pond were filled, those fireflies would be gone forever.” So he started the restoration process, keeping Liougong Canal’s (瑠公圳) water clear. And lo-and-behold, fireflies started to fly around Rongxing Garden Park again. In recent years, however, the total number has declined due to human activity and Rongxing Garden Park is a microcosm of what has happened to fireflies all over Taipei. It seems unlikely that more than a few dozen survive. The ones in Daan Park (大安森林公園) disappeared 25 years ago.
▲ Professor Yang introduces the firefly’s growth habits. (Photo: Huang Chienpin)
For so many years, people have looked forward to bringing fireflies back to this city. But, in addition to just hoping, people are now starting to take real action. Finally, we can see little twinkles in the underbrush of this modern city. Let us all hope that when the next season comes the air will be filled with these cheery flyers.
▲ Rongxing Garden Park’s information board lets people learn more about fireflies. (Photo: Huang Chienpin)
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