Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies

The annual migration of North America’s monarch butterflies is one of the great spectacles of nature. Each year up to 300 million monarchs travel more than 2,000 miles from North America and Canada to a remote forest 200 miles west of Mexico City. But they are as fragile as they are beautiful. Sudden changes in their environment can mean disaster.
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A January 2002 rain storm followed with freezing temperatures claimed as many as 250 million, almost 80% of the population, in the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary, just one of a half dozen sanctuaries in the area. Their bodies covered the forest floor giving off an unusual odor. Mike Quinn is a Texas biologist with Monarch Watch, an organization based out of the University of Kansas. He suspects logging which is encroached upon these reserves may have contributed to the kill off.
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“Logging is right up to the edge of the colony. And logging opens up the forest and lets in the cold air, and the freezes penetrate into the forest. Whereas an intact forest acts as both an umbrella and as a blanket and that will severely protect the monarchs.” In the last few decades nearly half of the woods the monarchs depend on in this region have been destroyed, primarily by illegal logging.

The Mexican government, along with the world wildlife fund, has launched efforts to help preserve what is left, offering to pay landowners to not cut trees. But the money is very limited; $18 for every cubic meter of loggable wood, not nearly as much revenue as logging generates. The 2002 storm wasn’t the first to strike the monarch population, nor will it likely be the last. For the moment millions of the monarch butterflies still take to the skies each year.