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Monarch Butterflies Expected to Rebound in Mexico

Oct 02, 2014 05:20 PM EDT
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Mexican officials from the World Wildlife Fund are expressing their optimism that the monarch butterfly population may soon rebound, as the deforestation of their wintering habitats is showing signs of having significantly slowed.

Each year, by the end of autumn, millions of Monarch butterflies in the northeastern United States and Canada start to wing their way towards Mexico in a stunning 2,500 mile journey. They will spend their winter there, among the volcanic mountains of Central Mexico, which are spotted with ideal fir tree habitats.

However, past logging activity even in these protected regions has begun to shrink the monarch wintering habitat, and fewer and fewer butterflies have been seen making their annual migration.

In fact, just last January the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) revealed that nearly 44 percent of the forestland occupied by monarchs in and near Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve during 2012's winter months had disappeared by 2013.

Worse still, the 2013 migrating population boasted the lowest count of monarchs since 1993 (the year scientists started to monitor monarch butterfly colonies), according to research released by the WWF-Telcel Alliance and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Office of the Mexican government.

Data like this, coupled with pattern results from monarch tagging, prompted the Center for Biological Diversity to move to have the monarch protected as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act back in April.

However, now WWF officials in Mexico are telling The Associated Press (AP) that this may not be necessary. The rate at which private parties are tearing down trees in the wintering habitats appears to have come to a near standstill.

At the same time, the agency has assessed recent counts and expects to see two to three times more monarchs arriving in Mexico in the months to come, compared to last year.

You can watch millions of these brilliant orange, yellow, and black butterflies nearly blot out the Sun as they flutter into Mexico for yourself on one of the WWF's available week-long tours. Or, if you're fortunate enough to be living on the right migration route, you can always just step outside to appreciate this amazing natural occurrence that will be in full-swing by November.

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