Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tribes to create monarch butterfly habitat in Okla.

National Geographic photo
Seven Native American tribes in Oklahoma announced Tuesday that they are partnering to create a monarch butterfly habitat, Heide Brandes reports for Reuters. The tribes "will plant crucial vegetation for the butterflies, including milkweed and native nectar-producing plants, on their lands. The tribes will work with the University of Kansas’ Monarch Watch program and the Euchee Butterfly Farm in Bixby, Okla. The project is supported by a grant of about $250,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation."

Insecticides and illegal logging in designated habitats are largely blamed for destroying milkweed plants, which are the main source of food for the butterflies, whose numbers fell 90 percent in recent years after reaching 1 billion in 1996. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February started a conservation fund for the butterfly and in September announced the first round of grants totaling $3.3 million from the fund.

"The butterflies spend the winter in Mexico and then go through several generations as they fly north, through Oklahoma, on their long migration to Canada," Brandes writes. "While an estimated 1 billion monarchs migrated in 1996, only about 35 million made the trip in 2013, according to Marcus Kronforst, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago who has studied monarchs. Their numbers have rebounded in recent years but are still well below what they were two decades ago."

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