Wuhan festival to replace fireflies with lasers

Fireflies in Central Georgia, the United States, can be seen whizzing about a forest. A park in Wuhan, China, will cease its practise of releasing fireflies during a firefly "festival" due ecological considerations. It will instead use lasers to crea
Fireflies in Central Georgia, the United States, can be seen whizzing about a forest. A park in Wuhan, China, will cease its practise of releasing fireflies during a firefly "festival" due ecological considerations. It will instead use lasers to create a "fictional" display of fireflies. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Caving under pressure from environmentalists, a park in Wuhan, China, known for its annual firefly displays has pledged to replace the insects with lasers from this year onwards.

Chinese news website Sixth Tone reported on Friday (May 26) that administrators of the East Lake Peony Garden will use laser lights to mimic the appearance of fireflies in the air.

This comes just two years after the opening of the firefly-themed park within the garden, which was hailed as the "first Firefly-themed park in central China" by Chinese officials on Hubei province's official English website.

A spokesman for the Hubei park told Sixth Tone that the lasers marked a new, "fictional" approach to educate visitors on the importance of preserving the integrity of an ecosystem and protecting fireflies.

She added: "No harm will come to the fireflies, or to the forest."

Earlier in May, China News Service reported that a similar firefly festival in Haikou, Hainan province was cancelled by local authorities after local environmental organisations banded together to call for a boycott of the festival.

Reasons cited by the coalition include shortened firefly lifespan due to the shock of a new habitat and the unpredictable implications of introducing a foreign species en masse into an ecosystem.

The Sixth Tone report also cited a study by Wuhan firefly researcher Fu Xinhua last year, which concluded that capturing and releasing fireflies in new habitats threaten the species, as they do not adapt well.

Firefly festivals in China are characterised by the mass release of - often non-indigenous - fireflies in a visual spectacle beloved by both children and dating couples in China.

But some have taken it upon themselves to create firefly displays on a more intimate scale.

The People's Daily reported last August that enterprising individuals on e-commerce portal Taobao would sell jars of up to 300 fireflies to young Chinese millennials as gifts to lovers.

In response to mounting criticism, Taobao said it would ban the sale of fireflies and close the accounts of existing vendors in a statement on Wednesday (May 24).