WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a comeback for the western monarch butterfly, the eastern monarch population has shown a positive outlook, according to data released by World Wildlife Fund Mexico. The latest results of the annual survey of eastern monarchs overwintering in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, located in south-central Mexico, showed they occupied an estimated 2.84 hectares of forest during the winter of 2021–22. This is an increase compared to the previous winter when monarchs occupied only 2.1 hectares.
“The positive survey results reported by WWF Mexico are a bright light for this iconic species. Unfortunately, monarchs continue to face a series of natural and man-made challenges that cannot be underestimated,” said Dr. Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón, chief monarch recovery strategist for the National Wildlife Federation. “With less than two years until we learn if the monarch will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, we must focus our conservation efforts and multiply collaborative efforts to make a significant difference, especially to restore and protect the monarchs’ natural habitats.”
We are still far from reaching the Mid-America Conservation Strategy’s goal of six hectares of occupancy in monarch overwintering sites. Habitat loss and fragmentation continue to be at the top of the list as the major threat to monarchs. Climatic change worsens habitat loss and fragmentation, which affects the monarch’s breeding grounds, migratory stopover habitats, and overwintering areas. We must address the climate issue while redoubling efforts to support and restore habitat by planting native nectar and caterpillar, native host plants to support this rapidly disappearing species.
Recovering the eastern monarch needs continued public and private investment, legislation and on-the-ground work to restore and protect their natural breeding areas, migratory corridors, and overwintering habitats. This is a conservation effort that will benefit the monarch butterfly and so much more. Legislation like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act aims to support imperiled species, such as the monarch, before more expensive measures are required.
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