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 user 2005-02-18 at 10:54:00 am Views: 69
  • #10346

    Mexico blames north for fewer monarch butterflies
    Local activists say government is ignoring

    population of Monarch butterflies has suffered a drastic decline, but Mexico —
    where deforestation has long devastated Monarch wintering grounds — is now
    blaming the United States and Canada.

    Environment Department said on Wednesday that 75 percent fewer Monarch
    butterflies have appeared in 2004 compared to previous years.

    It blamed cold
    weather and intensive farming — including genetically modified crops — in areas
    of the United States and Canada where the butterflies spend the summer and

    In past years,
    Mexico acknowledged the butterflies were affected by illegal logging of the
    central Mexico fir forests that make up the winter nesting grounds.

    Skepticism on

    Activists and researchers suggested Mexico may be trying to
    offload some of the blame, after its own highly-publicized efforts to stop
    illegal logging ran up against often violent resistance from logging

    “This is an
    incomplete and tendentious report, that seeks to put all the blame on other
    countries which do share responsibility,” said Homero Aridjis, whose Group of
    100 environmental organization has long opposed illegal logging.

    The Mexican
    government said the decline was due to a number of factors, including an
    unusually cold summer in the United States and a high mortality rate for the
    butterflies in Mexico in 2003 due to cold, wet conditions.

    “It is clear that
    the migratory phenomenon of the Monarch Butterfly … is not at risk,” the
    Environment Department said. “This is a species with a great capacity for
    recovering from die-offs.”

    However, the
    announcement focused almost exclusively on events in the United States and
    Canada, including “industrial agriculture that displaced breeding and feeding
    grounds,” “the use of herbicides and loss of habitat,” and the planting of
    genetically modified crops not used in Mexico.

    Forests ‘in full

    The government claimed Mexican forests “are healthy or in full
    recovery,” and that logging had been completely eradicated in the butterfly
    reserves, statements disputed by activists like Aridjis, who say illegal logging
    is a huge problem.

    “The main problem
    is the illegal loggers,” Aridjis said. “If nothing is done, looking at it
    pessimistically, we’re going to see fewer and fewer butterflies.”

    In some widely
    publicized laboratory experiments, Monarch butterfly caterpillars did die after
    eating milkweed coated with genetically modified corn pollen. In its own
    studies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said there probably is little
    risk to butterflies.

    While acknowledging
    that U.S. and Canada factors played a role in the butterflies’ problems, one
    researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mexico was trying to put a
    spin on the research results.

    The announcement
    was based on a report of total nesting ground areas prepared by Mexican
    government agencies, the World Wildlife Fund, and Mexican and U.S.

    measured the area covered by butterflies, a fairly accurate indicator since they
    tend to literally blanket forest areas in dense orange-and-black

    In Mexico from

    The government called the conclusions preliminary, based on
    reports from 12 of the 22 nesting grounds, and said they would have to be
    confirmed with further study.

    The annual arrival
    of butterflies from across North America to winter in Mexico — where they stay
    from October to late March — is an aesthetic and scientific wonder.

    The butterflies
    have proved remarkably resistant to both natural and manmade threats. In 2001,
    driving rain and bitter cold killed millions, leading scientists to speculate
    that migrating populations would be seriously depleted in 2002. To their
    surprise, anywhere from 200 million to more than 500 million monarchs returned
    that year — twice as many as some predicted.