Monarch Butterflies are flooding into their winter home in Mexico right now as their population makes a stunning comeback. Heroic efforts to save the iconic butterflies are credited with what could be a quadrupling of their numbers over what was recorded last year.
“We are calculating that three to four times more butterflies will arrive compared to last year,” Mexican Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano said in a press conference.
The Monarch population had dropped 90% over 20 years because of illegal logging and pesticide use that destroyed milkweed plants the butterflies need to feed and lay their eggs. But last year, an estimated 56.6 million of the species wintered in central Mexico’s evergreen forests— recovering somewhat from the all-time low of 35 million in 2013.
In recent years, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have taken sweeping steps to protect Monarch habitat and migration routes. They cracked down on illegal loggers and restricted pesticide use.
The U.S. also spent $3.2 million earlier this year to restore 200,000 acres of Monarch habitat from California to the Midwest — including 750 new habitats formed in schoolyards. More than a million dollars of that fund went toward paying farmers to maintain habitat for the butterflies.
“The magic of the monarch butterfly is that little patches matter,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in announcing the fund back in February. He said tiny patches of habitat “can make a difference on a continental scale.”
The conservation goal of the North American nations is to maintain at least 225 million Monarchs coming to Mexico–which looks like a goal they will achieve in 2015.
(WATCH the AFP video above) – Photo by Audrey, CC
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