Cobb Is­land cel­e­brates with Monarch Ma­nia

Fifth an­nual event helps pro­tect at-risk but­ter­fly

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com

Dozens of Cobb Is­land res­i­dents mi­grated to the fifth an­nual Monarch Ma­nia Fes­ti­val on Satur­day to tag and ul­ti­mately re­lease the at-risk monarch but­ter­flies as they travel south to­ward the moun­tain forests in cen­tral Mex­ico.

In re­cent years, in large part due to the use of her­bi­cides in Amer­ica and de­for­esta­tion in Mex­ico, the monarch but­ter­fly pop­u­la­tion has dipped to a record low and is now con­sid­ered a “near threat­ened” species by the World Wildlife Fund.

De­spite a steady rain, many at­tended the event

with sev­eral ven­dors, ed­u­ca­tional ex­hibits and games and craft­ing sta­tions for kids. Usu­ally held out­side, the Cobb Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment housed the fun in­doors.

In at­ten­dance this year was Con­sulate Al­berto Fierro of the Mex­i­can Em­bassy, and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mex­i­can Cul­tural In­sti­tute in Wash­ing­ton D.C., who spoke of the im­por­tance of the con­tin­u­ing part­ner­ship be­tween the Mex­i­can, Amer­i­can and Cana­dian gov­ern­ments to help pre­serve the monarch.

“It’s been on the agenda for many years,” Fierro told the Maryland In­de­pen­dent. “Ev­ery time that the three lead­ers of North Amer­ica get to­gether, they men­tion the monarch. The monarch is the sym­bol of the part­ner­ship of the three coun­ties, and pre­cisely be­cause of pes­ti­cides it has been in dan­ger. The three gov­ern­ments had to take mea­sures to make sure that the monarch sur­vives.”

Con­ser­va­tion­ist Mike Cal­la­han led the ed­u­ca­tional event, demon­strat­ing to the au­di­ence how to gen­tly tag the but­ter­fly’s wing with an iden­ti­fy­ing sticker which will later help re­searchers learn more about the monarch’s mi­gra­tion pat­tern, a jour­ney of up to 2,800 miles.

“As the mon­archs are mi­grat­ing through the area to­ward Mex­ico, they of­ten stay along the land­mass and the wa­ter­ways,” Cal­la­han said. “And they would come across from St. Mary’s [County] and land here in Cobb Is­land, nec­tar, and then even­tu­ally move on. Some of them are spend­ing the nights here.”

Cal­la­han also ex­plained how the monarch pop­u­la­tion has been af­fected by hu­man in­ter­fer­ence.

“The host plant for the monarch but­ter­fly is milk­weed fam­ily plants,” he said. “And so the her­bi­cides kill those, and at the sides of the road they of­ten get cut down be­cause peo­ple fear the word ‘weed’ and think it’s not good to have, and it’s the only plant mon­archs can lay their eggs on to feed.”

“And then loss of habi­tat in both fields in Amer­ica, and at one time, the forests of Mex­ico were dis­ap­pear­ing as well,” he added.

Though some crit­i­cized Mex­ico for the de­for­esta­tion of the monarch habi­tat, the her­bi­cide us­age in Amer­i­can has had a pro­found im­pact as well, Cal­la­han said, “Aren’t we just as bad?”

“So I’m glad to hear him [Fierro] men­tion about the agree­ments; all three coun­ties have brought the monarch into the dis­cus­sion when it comes to trade and other things.”

Dur­ing the event about 40 but­ter­flies were tagged, though, be­cause of the rain, they were not re­leased un­til the weather cleared on Sun­day morn­ing. Now, as the but­ter­flies con­tinue to travel south, any­one who comes across a tagged monarch will find con­tact in­for­ma­tion for Monarch Watch to re­port where it was found, aid­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists with their re­search to pro­tect the trea­sured but­ter­fly.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MIKE CAL­LA­HAN

Due to the rain dur­ing the Monarch Ma­nia Fes­ti­val on Satur­day, the tagged mon­archs were re­leased Sun­day morn­ing out­side of Shy­man­sky’s Restau­rant in Cobb Is­land.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Con­ser­va­tion­ist Mike Cal­la­han presents Con­sulate Al­berto Fierro of the Mex­i­can Em­bassy, and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mex­i­can Cul­tural In­sti­tute, a monarch but­ter­fly paint­ing and T-shirts at the fifth an­nual Monarch Ma­nia Fes­ti­val in Cobb Is­land on Satur­day.

Vol­un­teers cap­tured about 40 monarch but­ter­flies in Cobb Is­land prior to the fes­ti­val. The mon­archs were then tagged on Satur­day and re­leased Sun­day morn­ing.

Con­ser­va­tion­ist Mike Cal­la­han shows Mex­i­can con­sulate Al­berto Fierro the gen­der of the monarch but­ter­fly by spread­ing its wings apart.

A vol­un­teer shows the kids one of the tagged monarch but­ter­flies at the Monarch Ma­nia Fes­ti­val on Satur­day at Cobb Is­land.

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