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Free-range fireflies.

Shanghai’s environmentally questionable “firefly park” fails to get off the ground

A “firefly park” in Shanghai, where visitors walk amongst thousands of captive lightning bugs, was designed to play into widespread nostalgia for firefly-dotted summer evenings, which were once common throughout China but are now rare because of light pollution and environmental damage to the insects’ habitats.

Instead, the park’s organizers have indefinitely postponed the sold-out opening, scheduled for tomorrow (July 10), due to complaints that the park could cause even more environmental damage, and concerns about of overcrowding.

Experts had raised questions about how the Shanghai organizers were going to obtain the fireflies. Fu Xinhua, a professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, told Shanghai Daily that artificially breeding the bugs was out of the question due to cost. Importing wild fireflies is also problematic, Fu told the New York Times, because it “threatens the indigenous ecosystem and the species being brought in may not be able to survive.”

Park operators limited ticket sales due to overcrowding fears, but local government officials were unconvinced that safeguards were adequate.

China has a number of other firefly parks. A large one opened on May 30 in Wuhan, boasting more than 10,000 imported fireflies and five distinct zones for visitors to traipse through. Another one has been operating in Xiamen since 2010.

But the Wuhan and Xiamen parks are open-air, and the Shanghai park was going to be housed in a small, 800-square-meter shed. A separate plan for a firefly enclosure inside a shopping mall in Zhengzhou was also canceled (Chinese) yesterday.

The featured photo was shared under a Creative Commons license by pgl.star on Flickr. It has been cropped.

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