As a result of its rapidly declining population, experts on Thursday listed the iconic orange-and-black bug as endangered. This brought the monarch butterfly one step closer to extinction.
Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who wasn’t involved in the latest classification, described the reduction as “it’s just a devastating decline… This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”
Monarch butterflies that migrate were for the first time listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is two steps away from declaring them extinct.
Depending on the measurement technique, the group calculates that the number of monarch butterflies in North America has decreased by between 22 and 72 percent during the past ten years.
“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline… It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled.” said Nick Haddad, a conservation biologist at Michigan State University.
The population of monarch butterflies in the eastern United States, according to Haddad, who was not directly involved in the listing, has decreased between 85% and 95% during the 1990s.
The largest known insect migration is carried out by millions of monarch butterflies in North America.
The butterflies migrate thousands of kilometers to the north after spending the winter in the mountains of central Mexico, where they breed for several generations. At the conclusion of the summer, the offspring that have traveled to southern Canada start their journey back to Mexico.
“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 migrates to coastal California for the winter before spreading out across multiple states west of the Rocky Mountains in the spring and summer. Even though there was a slight recovery last winter, this population’s decline has been even more abrupt than that of the eastern monarchs.
The lack of habitat, greater use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture, and climate change, according to Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society, which monitors western butterflies, are all endangering the species.
“There are things people can do to help,” she said, including planting milkweed, a plant that the caterpillars depend upon.
In Central and South America, non-migratory monarch butterflies were not listed as threatened.
Although numerous environmental organizations think the monarch butterfly should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, the United States has not done so.
New tiger population estimates, which are 40% higher than the most recent ones from 2015, were also released by the international union.
According to Dale Miquelle, program coordinator for the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society’s tiger program, the new figures, which place the number of wild tigers in the world between 3,726 and 5,578, reflect improved methods for counting tigers and may also reflect an increase in their overall numbers.
Tiger populations have grown in Nepal, northern China, and possibly India during the past ten years, but they have completely vanished from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, according to Miquelle. They continue to be listed as endangered.
Source: “Beloved monarch butterflies are now listed as endangered” by NPR
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