Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Wither The Beloved Monarch?

"Monarch butterflies embark on a marvelous migratory phenomenon. They travel between 2,000 – 5,000 kilometres; their two-month journey is the second longest migration of all known insects. The butterflies travel from Canada south to the United States and hibernate in the forest mountains of Mexico. The butterflies hibernate in Mexico in a moderate climate before they head back North. Adult monarch butterflies possess two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Males, who possess distinguishing black dots along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than females. Each adult butterfly lives for a maximum of four to six weeks."WWF

Who doesn't love the sight of Monarch butterflies? Amazing creatures, with an amazing lifestyle; such delicate creatures that nature has designed to migrate back to their homes in Mexico to wait out the winter months before returning to North America to breed. In the volcanic hills of Aputzio de Juarez, Mexico, swarms of Monarchs return year upon year. The downhill forests bordering the small farming town has introduced itself to a world-wide crop that is in huge dinner-table demand, and that demand and the planting of avocado plantations is destroying Monarch habitat.

Land is being cleared to enable the planting of avocado orchards. Native oak and pine trees providing a buffer around the mountain forests where Monarchs nest are being cut by farmers in the western state of Michoacan. The little town of Aputzio resides on the edge of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. On the 54,600-hectare protected area, the butterflies rest on its native fir trees. Their numbers have catastrophically dwindled recently in lockstep with the decline of milkweed and deforestation in North America and Mexico.

Director General of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico, Imar Vidal, has stated that conservation of the Monarch's winter sanctuary was "fundamental to the survival of the migration", that deforestation "has to be reduced to zero". In the annals of 'easier-said-than-done', this is yet another addition. North Americans now devour a record amount of avocados, almost 80 percent of which come from Michoacan, the state authorized to export to the United States. The state exports around 700,000 metric tons with a value of $1.5-billion.

To a country with a not-that-robust economy, this represents a vital source of income. In the last quarter-century and more, 44,500 hectares of forest across Michoacan's central highlands have been transformed into avocado orchards, in lock-step with deforestation. That avocados are hugely regarded as a nutritional and delicious powerhouse packed with essential minerals, vitamins and healthy oils, explains their popularity as a must-have menu item.

The town of 1,100 has committed itself to growing avocados for the export market, with the hillsides around Aputzio de Juarez bristling with young avocado trees. Planting those trees dictates that the naive oak and pine be felled. "It is becoming a significant problem", said Edgar Gonzalez Godoy, director of the Mexican affiliate of New York-based Rainforest Alliance, given the area's proximity to the revered Monarch's habitat.

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