Monarch Butterflies Return to Mexico

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Monarch butterflies, with their striking black-and-orange coloring, have made a partial recovery in numbers of butterflies migrating from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico this year, after historic lows last year.

Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group World Wildlife Fund Mexico, says the increase this year -- 9.9 acres of colonies of butterflies, more than double of the 4.7 acres of last year -- is positive news, reports the Associated Press.

"These figures are encouraging, compared to last year, because they show a trend toward recovery," Vidal said.

The butterflies are a tourist attraction in the Mexican state of Michoacan, about 60 miles northwest of Mexico City.

Millions of the butterflies travel 2,000 miles to winter in Mexico. Despite the rebound, the latest numbers are well below the almost 20 acres covered in the 2008-09 winter season and the record high of 45 acres in 1996-97. Scientists have been doing a census since 1993 and report this is the fourth-lowest year for the butterfly, reports Reuters.

Lincoln Brower, an expert on monarch butterflies and a zoology professor at the University of Florida, says while this year's recovery is good news, each time the butterflies "recover," they still are lower than in the past.

"What is ominous is that all of the last seven years have been below average," he said.

Rosendo Caro, director of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, says the number of tourists has fallen as much as 50% in recent years, down from as many as 110,000. Drug gangs in Michoacan, where the reserve is located, have prompted travel warnings about the area, though no violence has occurred within the 193,000-acre reserve.

"The many people who visit realize that, while there is undeniably an atmosphere of violence, that's really more of a problem of perception," Caro says. "The people in the region are friendly and respectful."

Photo, JeffK, flickr


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