More fireflies sold online in China
EVERY summer, a craze for fireflies sweeps China. As the Chinese Valentine's Day, or Qixi, draws near (it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which is tomorrow), online firefly sales jump.
The number of fireflies traded online has exceeded 10 million this year, a tenfold rise compared with the same period last year, an investigation by Qinghuan Volunteer Service Centre - an environmental protection group - has revealed.
Thirty-seven e-shops on e-commerce site Taobao.com are selling live fireflies, with more than 50,000 transactions made by 17 shops.
Many online shops sell the fireflies in sets, such as a jar of 55 that supposedly means "I love you", as part of promotions that target the Chinese Valentine's Day.
Each firefly in these sets costs four yuan (90 Singapore cents) to five yuan. As these insects die easily during delivery, some sellers pack 20 per cent more in the package.
"We've been watching this problem on Taobao.com for years," said Fang Jianbo from Qinghuan Volunteer Service Centre. "This year, the selling seems to be more centralised. In the past, customers could place orders on the number of fireflies as they wished. But they now have to buy a fixed number of fireflies in sets this year."
He said 30 fireflies, with six given for free, are sold at about 160 yuan, which is the lowest price for a set.
Many of the sellers claim their fireflies are bred in captivity. Experts say that nearly 99 per cent of these "captive-bred" fireflies are fake, because the breeding of fireflies is costly, which means they would be sold for nearly twice the price of other fireflies sold online.
According to investigations by an environmental organisation in Jiangsu province, there have been more than 60 firefly exhibitions nationwide this year. However, such exhibitions are deemed harmful to the environment, according to experts.
"It threatens the indigenous ecosystem, and the species being brought in may not be able to survive," said Fu Xinhua, a biologist at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, Hubei province. The biologist suggested that people go to the wild or sanctuaries to watch fireflies instead.
Fireflies were once a familiar part of summer evenings in much of China. But experts say the tiny flashes that used to light up fields have dwindled, due to pollution and altered natural habitats.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
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