Monday, 30 January 2017

Public apathy takes light out of bug in Hyderabad

By Udumula Sudhakar Reddy

Zoologists and biodiversity experts have confirmed that bioluminescent fireflies, locally called jugnu or minguru purugu, have almost disappeared from urban and semi-urban areas while their number is dwindling in villages. They are now seen only in forest tracts and undisturbed jungles.

Experts say that light pollution and excessive use of pesticides are the prime reasons for their disappearance. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state account for 24 per cent of pesticide use in the country, the highest for any state.

Dr C Srinivasulu, assistant professor of zoology at Osmania University and member of the TS State Biodiversity Board, said, “One of the major reasons is indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides. In the city and suburbs. Environment fogging done for mosquito control has resulted in this local extinction. Even in villages and agri farms, the firefly population is going down. We have fireflies only in undisturbed forests.”

He said this was akin to the decline in population of honey bees. “It has been recorded that the decline of honey bees is affecting pollination. Government organisations are apathetic about biodiversity. Only charismatic species like tiger, elephant and lion are in focus. There is a need to identify the problem and mitigate it.”

Fireflies are a variety of beetle and there are hundreds of species across the world. Fireflies use light signals emanating from their bodies to attract the opposite sex during mating.

Mr K. Tulsi Rao, coordinator, East Godavari Riverine Estuarine Eco-system Foundation, a UNDP-funded project, said, “Apart from pesticides, light pollution is another major reason. Due to excessive use of lights in homes and on vehicles, the mating process of fireflies is affected. Fireflies or lightning bugs generate light within their bodies to attract a mate. I can confirm that the firefly population has come down to a threatening level in some areas. Much is talked about biodiversity and the theat but little is done on the ground.”

National Biodiversity Authority member Mathen Rajeev Mathew confirmed the decline of fireflies and blamed the use of pesticides.

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