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The Monarch Butterfly Is Officially An Endangered Species

Bay Area Sees Rebound In Monarch Butterfly Population

Photo: Getty Images

Today monarch butterflies received an official endangered species designation after an assessment by leading scientists.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the foremost authority on tracking monarch butterflies. They placed the well-known butterfly on the endangered species list today after decades of consistent population decline.

IUCN's Director General, Dr. Bruno Oberle said:

“Today’s Red List update highlights the fragility of nature’s wonders, such as the unique spectacle of monarch butterflies migrating across thousands of kilometres.”

Monarch butterflies embark on the longest migration of any known insect, flying across 2,500 miles from the southern parts of Canada through the U.S. and into the forests of central Mexico.

The main reasons for the decline of the iconic orange-and-black butterfly are loss of habitat and climate change. Extreme droughts, wildfires, and herbicides are ravaging the monarch's only food source; milkweed. Extreme and rapid changes in weather are also triggering premature migrations for monarchs, causing them to travel to areas before milkweed has had an opportunity to grow.

Experts say monarch populations have declined somewhere between 22% and 72% depending on assessment methods used. The western monarch butterfly, which are monarchs seen from Baja, Mexico to Mendocino County, CA lost an estimated 99.9% of its population. There were an estimated 10 million western monarchs in the 1980s down to a reported 1,914 in 2021.

Anna Walker, a moth and butterfly specialist with the IUCN said some are doing what they can to preserve the species:

“It is difficult to watch monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration teeter on the edge of collapse, but there are signs of hope. So many people and organisations have come together to try and protect this butterfly and its habitats. From planting native milkweed and reducing pesticide use to supporting the protection of overwintering sites and contributing to community science, we all have a role to play in making sure this iconic insect makes a full recovery,”

Here's a quick video on what everyday people can do to help this newly endangered species.

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