Los Angeles Times

Monarch butterflie­s are in great peril

A conservati­on group categorize­s the migrating insect as ‘endangered’ — two steps from extinct.


WASHINGTON — The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction Thursday, as scientists put the beloved orange-andblack insect on the endangered list because of its fastdwindl­ing numbers.

“It’s just a devastatin­g decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the new listing. “This is one of the most recognizab­le butterflie­s in the world.”

The Internatio­nal Union for the Conservati­on of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its “red list” of threatened species and categorize­d it as “endangered” — two steps from extinct.

The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflie­s in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over 10 years, depending on the measuremen­t method.

“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline,” said Nick Haddad, a conservati­on biologist at Michigan State University. “It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled.”

Haddad, who was not directly involved in the listing, estimates that the population of monarch butterflie­s he studies in the eastern United States has declined between 85% and 95% since the 1990s.

In North America, millions of monarch butterflie­s undertake the longest migration of any insect species known to science.

After wintering in the mountains of central Mexico, the butterflie­s migrate north, breeding multiple generation­s along the way for thousands of miles. The offspring that reach southern Canada then begin the trip back to Mexico at the end of summer.

“It’s a true spectacle and incites such awe,” said Anna Walker, a conservati­on biologist at New Mexico BioPark Society who was involved in determinin­g the new listing.

A smaller group spends winters in coastal California, then disperses in spring and summer across several states west of the Rocky Mountains. This population has seen an even more precipitou­s decline than the eastern monarchs, although there was a small rebound last winter.

Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society, which monitors the western butterflie­s, said the butterflie­s are imperiled by loss of habitat and increased use of herbicides and pesticides for agricultur­e, as well as climate change.

“There are things people can do to help,” she said, including planting milkweed, a plant that the caterpilla­rs depend upon.

Nonmigrato­ry monarch butterflie­s in Central and South America were not designated as endangered.

The United States has not listed monarch butterflie­s under the Endangered Species Act, but several environmen­tal groups believe it should.

The internatio­nal union also announced new estimates for the global population of tigers, which are 40% higher than the most recent estimates from 2015.

The new figures, of between 3,726 and 5,578 wild tigers worldwide, ref lect better methods for counting tigers and, potentiall­y, an increase in their overall numbers, said Dale Miquelle, coordinato­r for the nonprofit Wildlife Conservati­on Society’s tiger program.

In the last decade, tiger population­s have increased in Nepal, northern China and perhaps in India, while tigers have disappeare­d entirely from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Miquelle said. They remain designated as endangered.

 ?? Nic Coury Associated Press ?? MONARCH butterf lies land on branches at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, Calif., last year.
Nic Coury Associated Press MONARCH butterf lies land on branches at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, Calif., last year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States