Long live the King

monarch.jpgOr, more accurately, the Monarch.

As biological diversity continues to disappear under the bulldozer treads worldwide, it’s a relief to hear some good news every now and then.  

According to Reuters, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has recently issued a “zero tolerance” policy against illegal logging in the last remaining fragments of mountain forest that serve as the wintering grounds for migrating monarch butterflies. El Presidente is serious enough about this that he is deploying soldiers and federal police to patrol the area for renegade loggers.  He has also pledged to plant 10 million trees in the reserve (not by himself, presumaby), part of 250 million to be planted throughout Mexico, during 2007.

monarchcaterpillar.jpgThe Monarch butterfly is famous thoughout the world for its homeric migratory odyssey of over 2500 miles from as far away as Canada to the mountains of Mexico’s Sierra Madre, where it concentrates in huge populations in the fir forests of the mountains — the real treasure of the Sierra Madre.  But this concentration into a relatively small area has rendered monarchs uniquely vulnerable to threats to these forests, and the iconic insects are considered in danger of extinction if the remaining wintering habitat is not protected.  Their troubles also stem, of course, from habitat loss north of the border where they summer in our dwindling vacant lots, parks, and backyards (for 16 bucks you can give them a summer home in yours).  Nevertheless, the winter concentration of the whole monarch population in the Mexican forests make them especially vulnerable there — and also offers a focus for protection.

Other highlights of President Calderon’s announcement, from El Universal:

The “Conservation Development Strategy for 2007-2012” includes a 300-million-peso budget to promote ecological conservation projects among residents of Mexico’s 130 natural protected areas.

Funding to > 300 communities, most indigenous, to help create 35,000 jobs.

A temporary employment program intended to generate immediate and long-term benefits for 600 communities throughout the country.

A 50-million peso endangered species program to protect the vaquita porpoise, leatherback sea turtle, the jaguar, the Mexican wolf and the golden eagle, among others.

It’s great to hear about new protections for jaguars and wolves and sea turtles and other charismatic wildlife.  But it’s especially cool to see a humble invertebrate inspiring conservation policy for a change, and pulling along all the other creatures of its winterhome forests on its coattails (wingtips?).  Has a ring of Cinderella story to it.  

“With this strategy we hope to reconcile Mexico with nature,” President Calderon said.

Hail to el Jefe!

Photos by Orley “Chip” Taylor of the University of Kansas.

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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One Response to Long live the King

  1. Matt Whalen says:

    As the old saying goes, “When a butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico….” Well, maybe that’s not how it goes and maybe we won’t see tornadoes of inspiration on the other side of the globe, but hopefully this initiative will prove successful and encourage other nations to protect aboriginal populations of plants and animals.

    ¡Viva los invertebrados!