Article: Return of the Monarch Butterflies

Written by Cafe Campesino on Nov 1, 2005 in Article, NEWSLETTER |
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In last year’s November issue of Fair Grounds, we featured Oyamel, Cocina Mexicana, as our customer of the month. Named after a coniferous pine tree native to Mexico, Oyamel represents the important Mexican Oyamel Forests, which are an essential haven for the migration of the Monarch Butterfly.

After what has been a tough year in terms of natural calamities, we have some good news to pass on to you regarding the monarch butterfly. Last week, the Associated Press reported that “as many as 200 million monarch butterflies may migrate to Mexico this year — a nearly tenfold increase over 2004, when unfavorable weather, pollution and deforestation caused a drastic decline in the population, according to environmental officials.”

Every autumn, an amazing migration takes place: millions of monarch butterflies leave their northern homes in the eastern United States and Canada and journey south to their ancestral mating home to spend the winter in the forests of Michoacan in the volcanic highlands of central Mexico. After their 3400 mile journey, the butterflies seek the shelter of the oyamel, abies religiosa. This rare type of fir tree, found primarily on a few mountaintops between 7,900 and 12,000 feet, offers these fragile travelers a sanctuary, protection from the threats posed by extreme temperatures, predators, and rain and snow.

Last year, fewer than 23 million butterflies survived long enough to leave habitats in the United States and Canada for sanctuaries in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City, and neighboring Michoacan state.

The following are excerpts from the AP article, which can be read in its entirety here.

Hector Gonzalez, Profepa’s deputy prosecutor for natural resources, said officials have significantly reduced the rate of deforestation, which has for decades devastated the areas where butterflies winter.

He said the number of people arrested for illegal logging is on the decline, as is the amount of timber seized from butterfly habitats. Satellite imagery of the sanctuaries also confirms the drop in deforestation, he said, though officials failed to provide concrete data to support the claim. “This by no means puts us in the position of being calm,” he said. “Reduction and complete eradication of deforestation remains a permanent goal.”

Police officers and federal agents have for years patrolled monarch wintering grounds in an effort to stop illegal logging and authorities have set up checkpoints along nearby highways to seize timber as it leaves the area. This year, a new 15-person police force will patrol butterfly areas. In the past, armed logging gangs have responded to anti-deforestation efforts with violence. Profepa’s chief prosecutor, Ignacio Loyola, said bands of thugs often control illegal logging in monarch areas, but that impoverished residents also cut down trees for firewood and to make room for subsistence farming. He said federal officials have begun a number of programs to stimulate economies in butterfly areas, creating jobs in tourism and construction so as to discourage illegal logging.

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