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Protect the Monarch Forest

Do you have monarch butterfly questions? Because we have answers! To celebrate Monarch Butterfly Week (May 5-9) we will host a Google Hangout with monarch experts.  Send your questions to live@wwfcanada.org today, and be sure to tune in for our live Hangout on Thursday, May 8 at 1:30 p.m. EST to get your answers!  

As part of WWF’s Monarch Butterfly Week, we spoke with Jorge Rickards G., Conservation Director at WWF Mexico, about the species in their wintering habitat.

What are the greatest threats to the monarch forests?
The main threat that the forests in Mexico are facing is illegal logging practices within the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. Approximately ten years ago, there were constant illegally logging activities; almost 450 hectares of trees were been cut down! Plagues are another threat to the forests, mainly infestations of mistletoe. However, this is not a major threat as it is currently under control through forest and management conservation.

monarch butterflies

Monarch Butterflies in Wintering Area. Danaus plexippus. Copulation, Highlands in Mexico (3500m). © Fritz Pölking / WWF

What are some of the conservation work WWF is doing in the Monarch Reserve to protect the forests from these threats?
The initial activities that took place in the Monarch Reserve were directed to strengthening local NGO participation with WWF, to emphasize the importance of the forests and the habitat that they provide to the butterflies. Once WWF took over some of the direct conservation activities, we implemented programs in collaboration with the government and other civil society organizations to create financial compensations for the local communities living within the Monarch Reserve. These programs such as the creation of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund compensate locals and indigenous people in efforts to protect the Monarch Reserve area.  These programs have been successful in dramatically reducing massive illegal logging. According to our statistics, there was no illegal logging in 2011 and in 2013 only 8 hectares were cut down! That’s a big win for Mexico, local communities, the monarchs and WWF.

What is the local communities’ relationship to the forests?
The local communities living within the Monarch Reserve are actually stewards for the monarch’s habitat. Their efforts and participation with WWF programs has been tremendously successfully, which has helped protect the forests even more from real threats such as the illegal logging. Any logging that is currently going on is of minor scale and linked to subsistence needs of poor communities. We are working to help communities find alternative income sources to avoid wood extraction and we are monitoring the condition of the forest in the core areas of the Reserve every year.

Monarch butterflies, Mexico

WWF staff speaking to a local worker at a tree nursery where thousands of seedlings of trees native to the Transvolcanic Pine-Oak Forest (Global 200 Ecoregion) are grown. This nursery is funded by WWF and the seedlings are used to replace trees lost to illegal logging in forests where Monarch butterflies overwinter. La Rosaria Monarch Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan, Mexico. © Paul Bettings / WWF-Canada

What is your favorite thing about monarch butterflies?
Personally, I believe butterflies to be the ambassadors of nature. I was lucky to be raised in a family that collected butterflies; my father and I would go out and collect butterflies together, it was part of my family tradition. Monarchs and butterflies in general have the capacity to attract people to nature, they are insects that are loved and allow others to easily fall in love with them and nature. Their ability to connect people to nature is fantastic!

Learn more about these amazing species at wwf.ca/monarchbutterfly.  You can support WWF’s critical monarch conservation work in Mexico by making a $50 virtual gift today! You contribution will be matched by an anonymous donor in Mexico to help make double the impact.