Mexico’s renowned monarch butterflies, which each year make the arduous trek back and forth from Canada, are under grave threat from breeding habitat destruction and climate change, Mexican biologist Gabriela Jiménez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) said in a recent interview.
Calling for more government and NGO actions to protect the endangered species Jiménez told Xinhua that the chain of sanctuaries where the migrant butterflies rest in the United States, Canada and Mexico are being lost due to global warming and human encroachment.
“In recent years, the population of this species has decreased in Mexico, while forests have disappeared in Canada where the butterflies rest, specifically in cold tolerant trees,” Jiménez said.
While global temperatures are rising, trees are being damaged and disappearing, boding ill for the stay, survival and reproduction of the Monarch butterflies, which usually winter in Mexico from November to January.
On July 21, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the monarch butterfly to its Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered, only one step away from becoming critically endangered.
The orange-winged species, which travels each year some 4,200 kilometers from the United States and Canada to the Mexican mountains, has had a 72 percent reduction in its population over the past decades, IUCN data showed.
In view of this situation, Jiménez called for more coordinated efforts to take care of the pine forests where the butterflies shelter, and conserve milkweed plants, where they lay eggs and from which caterpillars emerge to feed on milkweed leaves, so as to protect themselves in their long-distance journey of migration.
She also suggested urgent measures to reduce carbon emission and curb climate change.
“If there are butterflies, it means that the ecosystem is fine,” she said.
“Butterflies are our great pollinators, and if their role breaks down, we would be facing an irreparable catastrophe.”