Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Conservationists say monarch butterflies are still in danger, despite increase in numbers

Despite an estimated 56.5 million monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico, up from a record-low 34 million last year, conservationists say numbers are still too low and continue to call for the species to be granted endangered species status, Laura Zuckerman reports for Reuters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last month the popular orange-and-black butterfly may warrant federal Endangered Species Act protections tied to declines in cross-country migrations because of farm-related habitat loss."

Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, "said the latest population estimate for monarchs is the second-lowest since surveys began in 1993 and that the butterflies faced the possibility of extinction without habitat and other protections that would come with adding the insects to the U.S. federal endangered and threatened species list," Zuckerman writes. (Reuters photo by Michael Fiala)

Conservationists say "increased cultivation of crops genetically engineered to withstand herbicides that kill native vegetation like milkweed" is to blame for population losses, Zuckerman writes. Roundup used by Monsanto has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields, where most of the butterflies are born, conservationists say. (Read more)

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