Thursday, August 27, 2015

Illegal logging killing monarch butterflies in Mexico; states creating waystations to save species

Monarch butterfly populations, which have been getting wiped out in the U.S. by pesticides, are now suffering a decrease in population in Mexico because of illegal logging in designated habitats, Daryl Fears reports for The Washington Post. Monarch numbers are estimated to have fallen by 90 percent in recent years after reaching 1 billion in 1996, prompting the Obama administration to detail a plan to attempt to save the species.

Mexican scientists and American conservationists said this week that a 2014-15 survey of a monarch sanctuary "showed that 49 acres were degraded by logging and another three acres by a wicked cocktail of 'drought, pests, lightning and landslides,'" Fears writes. The area is a haven for the butterflies to hibernate over the winter. (Read more)

Efforts to save the species have been ongoing in North America, in places such as Kentucky, where more than a dozen state parks "are working on projects to help Monarch butterflies by preserving habitat and planting milkweed plants the butterflies need for survival," Kentucky Department of Parks said in a news release. Five state parks are currently certified waystations, and 10 other parks are in the process of getting certified or have planted milkweed plants," which provide food and a place for Monarchs to lay their eggs.

Sasqua Wildflower Preserve in Fairfield County, Connecticut, earlier this month became an official monarch butterfly waystation, reports Aspetuck Land Trust, a local non-profit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton.

School children in Oregon earlier this summer planted milkweed and lavender plants in Salish Ponds Wetland Park in Fairview in an effort to increase the amount of habitat available for local pollinators, Rachel Crowell reports for The Oregonian. The group hopes "to plant 800 to 1,200 milkweed and lavender plants in 2016—double or even triple this year's amount."

Our neighbors in the North are also helping the species, which often travel from Mexico to the U.S. to Canada. The Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg on Wednesday released tagged monarch butterflies that will be tracked by researchers as they fly to Mexico for the winter, Lara Schroeder reports for Global News. This is the fifth year of the tagging program.

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