Don’t let monarch butterflies go the way of the passenger pigeon and become extinct! That is the fear with news of monarchs’ severe decline in numbers – down 97% since their recorded peak only twenty years ago. Monarch expert Lincoln Brower thinks it could happen in as soon as a year or two.
Since 1993, when a monarch census began, the number estimated to have survived the 3,000-mile journey to wintering grounds in Mexico have plummeted. As recently as 1997 monarchs sheltered on nearly 52 acres of oyamel forest, but according to the World Wildlife Fund this winter it was barely 1.65 acres – about 44% fewer than 2012, and almost half again as many as 2011.
What would summer be without the distinctive orange and black butterflies? It’s more than just a delightful creature that is at risk. Brower calls the monarch the “canary in the cornfield” – a warning that it and other insects, and with them, us humans – are endangered. Fingers point to many factors, from agricultural practices in the U.S. to weather extremes to deforestation across the border, but vital changes need to happen soon both here and abroad, or the only monarch we’re likely to see will be in a museum.Whizzco