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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







  Kuala Selangor Nature Park  
    ... of milky stork, leaf monkeys and fireflies  

View from the Main Hide across the brackish lakes

Kuala Selangor lies just 75 kilometres north-west of Kuala Lumpur, near the mouth of the Selangor River. In addition to it痴 small-town charms there are many nearby attractions to suit the nature lover, including the Kuala Selangor Nature Park and the colonies of fireflies living along tributaries of the Selangor River.

Kuala Selangor

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society, under a co-operative arrangement with the Selangor State Government. This coastal area was once dominated by mangroves, but since the construction of coastal bunds it now comprises a strip of remnant mangrove forests, mainly Avicennia sp., behind which are brackish lakes and ponds and a large area of secondary forest. In many respects the ecological history of the area is similar to Singapore痴 own Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Thus, familiar vertebrates such as mud skippers, mud lobsters and the Malayan Water Monitor can be seen from the bund and the mangrove boardwalks.


The endangered Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea - a captive breeding program is aimed at preventing their extinction.


During the migration season, between September and March, the lakes and ponds teem with shorebirds such as plovers, Greenshank, Redshank and various species of sandpiper travelling the migration route of the East-Asian Flyway. These very same birds may well stop at Sungei Buloh for a final meal of worms and molluscs before heading south to winter in the warmth of Australia.

One bird deserves a special mention the Milky Stork. In conjunction with Zoo Negara, an active breeding program of this globally endangered species - less than 100 specimens are thought to exist - is being conducted in a specially constructed aviary next to the main lake. Visitors are not allowed inside the aviary, however the birds can clearly be seen nesting in the enclosure. It is hoped, upon release, these captive-bred storks will choose to make Kuala Selangor their permanent home.

Kuala Selangor Nature Park has over 200-hectares of immature secondary forest. Easy walks are possible along the well worn trails; where the sun streams through breaks in the canopy keep an eye open for lizards and skinks warming themselves, especially the Common Sun Skink. Familiar forest birds such as Woodpeckers, Bulbuls, Sunbirds and Malkohas can also be seen.


The Silvered Leaf Monkey or Silvered Langur Presbytis cristata - common in the secondary forest of Kuala Selangor Nature Park

Silvered Leaf Monkeys

One highly vocal species the visitor is likely to hear, if not see, in the secondary forest is the Silvered Leaf Monkey, also called the Silvered Langur. Troops of these large, grey-black, long-tailed monkeys can be heard crashing through the trees, scaring away the more timid bird species. In the same manner as trendy young people, the baby langurs appear to have died their fur a startling bright orange colour; one wonders how the adult monkeys cope with being the parents of such outrageous offspring ! In the early morning the langurs raid the gardens of people living at the base of Bukit Melawati, at the northern edge of the park, searching for ripened fruits.

Well marked trails wind their way through the secondary forest


The mischievous Long-tailed Macaque, which is common all over Malaysia and Singapore, appears to be less common here. Presumably, there is competition for food and territory between the macaques and the langurs; the smaller macaques must content themselves with living on the park痴 boundaries.



Away from the Nature Park, branching off the Selangor River are a series of narrower tributaries lined with healthy stands of Beremban or Sonneratia Caseolaris. This tall mangrove species is characterised by simple symmetric leaves, and cone-like aerial roots. During the day this tree species might seem unremarkable, however as dusk falls beautiful flowers open up, each with an array of up to 100 reddish-white stamens. In these quiet, ulu backwaters survive Pteroptyx tener, the firefly species which makes S. Caseolaris their home.


Pteroptyx sp. - the beetle species known as "fireflies", or "kelip-kelip" in Malay.

At twilight, the kingfishers and bee-eaters give way to nightjars and owls, and the fireflies, or "kelip-kelip" as they are locally known, put on a dazzling light show. Thousands of these insects commence their fluorescent display, flashing on and off two or three times a second, some stationary, others circling around. In some trees a whole colony of fireflies will flash in absolute unison, hour after hour, in the manner of the lights on a Christmas tree. Male and female fireflies are both able to flash, but only the males flash in unison; the synchronised display serves to attract a mate, but how does the female choose her mate amongst the thousands of "switched-on" males !


Underside view of Pteroptyx sp. showing the light-emitting abdominal segments


The dense colonies of fireflies were, in olden times, used as a navigation aid in some rivers in Malaysia. As you view this wonderful sight, lulled by the gently rocking boat and the quiet putter of the engine, you fancy that thousands of years ago when the world was less polluted, many rivers supported these wondrous insects. Imagine the awe of primitive humans as they migrated down the Malay Peninsula thousands of years ago and their eyes saw these flashing lights for the first time.

Now the fireflies can be easily viewed by modern humans at Kampung Kuantan and Kampung Bukit Belimbing, both a short taxi ride from Kuala Selangor town. At both locations tourist facilities have grown in the last few years, so there are new jetties, reliable boatmen and restaurant and toilet facilities. If you think that the commercialisation of firefly viewing could in some way be a threat to their survival, think again. Consider that a huge dam is proposed for the Selangor River. Conservationists fear that the dam may affect water flow, river level and salinity downstream, spelling doom for the fireflies. Opposition to the dam is being loudly voiced, not only by environmentalists but also by those kampung folk whose livelihood depends upon the tourist dollar. Thus, it may be that the fireflies need the tourists in order to survive.

Next Christmas, instead of following the hordes of people to view the annual light-up of Singapore's Orchard Road, why not take a quiet trip up-country to view the unique, world-renowned fireflies of Kuala Selangor. It will be an experience of a lifetime.


The original text for this article first appeared in Volume 8, Number 3 of Nature Watch, published by the Nature Society (Singapore), September 2000