Number of Monarch Butterflies Hibernating in Mexico Drops 26% in 2020

A monarch butterfly is pictured at El Rosario sanctuary, in El Rosario, in Michoacan state, Mexico February 11, 2021. Millions of orange and black monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico on a 2,000-mile (3,220-km) journey each year from Canada across North America. But the butterflies occupied only 2.1 hectares in December 2020, compared with 2.8 hectares the previous winter season, the conservationist group WWF said in a statement. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

Monarch butterflies provide a unique spectacle every fall as they migrate to Mexico to hibernate for the winter. But now, that migration is at risk, as logging and climate change have taken a toll on the areas where these butterflies rest.

According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico’s government, the monarch population present for hibernation in Mexico plunged by 26% in December compared to the same month in 2019.

In 2019, the monarchs occupied 2.83 hectares, nearly 7 acres, in their hibernation forests in Mexico. After their latest migration in 2020, however, they occupied just 2.1 hectares, roughly 5.1 acres.

Jorge Rickards, director general of WWF-Mexico, said the data shows that the migratory process of monarchs is at risk, and urged governments and scientists to work on addressing the issue.

In the U.S., the monarch butterfly is approaching endangered status. In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that listing the butterfly species as endangered or threatened is “warranted” under the Endangered Species Act, but that there were other species that were higher priority to be listed. The FWS said it will review the status of monarch butterflies annually.

“Monarch butterflies show us how individual work, in this case, migration, can become an exceptional collaborative exercise, when all these migrants gather in the forests to hibernate together and buffer the climate,” Rickards said in a statement.

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SOURCE: CBS News, Li Cohen