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article imageIs the Monarch Butterfly on the Brink of Extinction?

By Nikki Weingartner     Apr 5, 2008 in Environment
Known as the unwritten eighth wonder of the world, the 3,000-mile migration of the Monarch butterfly is at high risk of being eradicated due to illegal logging activity at the Monarch Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.
The Monarch Butterfly makes its incredible journey out of Mexico into the United States, coating the trail with, at times, twenty-five million insects per acre in a sea of delicate orange and black wings. After a few generations of breeding, the younger generations migrate back to Mexico in a journey of wonderment reminiscent of the maiden voyage.
Mexico’s Monarch Biosphere Reserve, a 217-mile reserve located in a remote area of the central Mexican forest, has become victim to illegal logging activity, subsequently harming the number of Monarch populations at the sphere, according to research by University of Kansas professor, Chip Taylor.
“It’s a remote area, and it’s difficult to police,” Taylor said. “There are elements that are quite forceful in their logging. They carry guns. They overpower the local residents. They sneak in there at night, sometimes with 100 trucks, and clear out 2 or 3 hectares”
A hectare equals roughly the size of two and one-half American Football fields.
The loggers, who have stepped up their illegal activity over the past couple of years, have effectively cleared out the part of the forest that does NOT house the butterflies and are expected to move into the Monarch habitats, thereby further endangering the Monarch’s immediate future.
Researchers found a decrease in the number of Monarch populations in the Biosphere since 2000, noting the three lowest populations since then. Many of the Monarchs are dying of winter exposure caused by deforestization. Taylor’s research has found that
“Previously, the population occupied 9 hectares. Now, we’re only averaging about 6 hectares per year. This year the population was 4.61 hectares — the third-lowest population.”
The impending issues associated with the survival of the Monarch crosses over the borders, into the United States, where the herbicide, transgenic crops and biofuel usage have affected habitats along the Monarch’s journey. Also attributed to the destruction of their migration, along with other wildlife, is the rapid rate at which the country is developing.
The University of Kansas study research provides key elements to showing the potential loss of a common beauty and recommends certain steps be taken to prevent, or at least slow the eradication of the beautiful winged wonders.
In Mexico, the most immediate safeguard would be to stop the illegal loggers from causing further damage to the Biosphere and by planting trees to the areas that have been destroyed. Taylor’s study also suggests the employment of area citizens as forest managers, giving them the power to protect the Biosphere and the “protected status” of the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico.
In the United States, increasing Monarch habitats by planting milkweeds, a natural habitat of the Monarch, as well as providing more protection to their current habitats would serve the current migratory patterns and help stabilize and protect their awe-inspiring journey across the country.
More about Monarch, Extinction, Mexico
 
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