MEXICO BLAMES U.S. FOR BUTTERFLIES
MEXICO BLAMES U.S. FOR BUTTERFLIES
2005-02-18 at 10:54:00 am #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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.