Mexico Losing Butterflies


On 1 November, when Mexicans celebrate their holiday “the Day of the Dead”, some celebrate the millions of orange-and-black monarch flight to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

In 2013, for the first time, the monarch butterflies did not come, at least not on the “Day of the Dead”. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. The low number of 60 million, in 2012, now seems great compared with less than 3 million which have shown up in 2013. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be coming to an end.

Scientists say Mexico’s monarch butterfly colonies—as many as several million butterflies in one acre—are on the cusp of disappearing. If the species were to vanish, one of the few creatures emblematic of all North America, a beloved insect with powerhouse stamina that even school kids can easily identify, would be gone.

Scientists thought that there are many reasons behind this phenomenon which includes severe weather working against the butterflies for the past two years. Another reason is the progressive deterioration of the overwintering habitat in Mexico due to illegal deforestation. However, the third and probably the most egregious problem is the result of industrialized agriculture in the Midwest.

If the monarch goes extinct, it is not ecologically different from the loss of the passenger pigeon. It is just like going into a museum and pulling a rare painting off the wall and destroying it. So there is the aesthetic aspect.

Monarch butterfly is used in teaching biology to kids on a scale that is unequaled by any other insect in the world. So it is an incredibly strong educational tool, and the biology of the migration is absolutely unique.

If ordinary conditions existed, Monarchs can lay 300 eggs or 400 eggs, and their reproductive capacity is rather extraordinary. Like cockroaches, they have managed to survive eons, through thick and thin, through asteroids and everything. Part of the reason insects are capable of surviving is that their reproductive capacity is so high, unlike mammals. So if the conditions are right, the monarch has the chance of coming back fast.

Besides, Carlos Slim Foundation has been working, since 2008, with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Mexican Ministry of the Environment to prevent the Monarchs butterflies from dying. As the Foundation, invested USD 100 million in five different conservation programs in Mexico, the restoration of the Monarch butterfly reserve is one of those programs.


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