Mexico takes steps to protect monarch habitats threatened by illegal logging

Prevention against logging helps save the monarch sanctuaries

Mexico takes steps to protect monarch habitats threatened by illegal logging

Tue, 2012-09-18

As the monarch butterflies begin their annual migration to Mexico, the government of Mexico is taking steps to protect the environment of the nesting grounds of the monarch. Recent government announcements declared that efforts aimed at eliminating illegal logging have been quite successful. For the first time since the forests west of Mexico City were labeled a nature reserve in 2000, logging has not be found in measurable amounts. 

Many obstacles lie between the origin and destination locations for the monarch butterflies’ migration. There are plenty of predators. The cold weather is sweeping in. Food supplies are spread apart. The distance is up to 3,000 miles. But what hurts the monarchs the most is damage to their environment. Illegal logging, specifically, has caused unparalleled damage to their hibernating grounds in Mexico.

At the peak of logging in 2005, it ruined upwards of 1,140 acres annually in the reserve. It was considered the reserve’s largest threat. In the early- to mid-2000s, armed police began patrolling reserves for logging operations, and donor groups started local nurseries to help grow for hopeful reforestation. The improved governmental stand against logging helped cut down the deforestation, however individual tree removal remains practically undetectable. During the past couple years, the thinning of forests is still noticeable, and will continue unless year-round monitoring and guarding is enforced. 

Additional reserve harm is coming from climate change. Droughts cause the trees stress, and make them vulnerable to bark beetles. Heavy rain and windstorms can create mudslides. Mistletoe strangles trees. These conditions wipe out acres of forest that the butterflies need for shelter. 

The number of monarchs wintering in Mexico dropped 28 percent this year. Some experts attribute the loss to drought in the northern parts of the Americas, where monarchs spend their summers. But it is clear that measures still need to be taken to ensure ample migration space in Mexico.

Migration is a trait inherited by monarchs. A monarch’s lifespan is so short, that no butterfly lives to make the round-trip. These delicate creatures need their winter refuge in Mexico, where millions of the species cluster so densely on tree boughs that researchers count them in acres rather than individually. The number of trees lost annually to logging has decreased, but must continue to decrease to help the monarchs. Officials and locals in Mexico are continuing to work to protect the forests, and the orange and black butterflies that call them home.