Monarch Butterflies: A journey under threat


The Fascination and inspiration over Monarch butterflies are related to their mysterious migration journey across North America. During their incredible adventure, these amazing butterflies and other important beings associated to their migration cycle, like the Oyamel fir tree forest, the milkweed plant, and the local people, inhabitants of the overwintering sanctuary in Mexico are all together facing critical environmental problems.

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In one hand the Oyamel fir tree forest (Abies religiosa) or “sacred fir” from nahuatl indigenous language, is fir native to the mountains of central and southern Mexico. The forest localized between the states of Mexico and Michoacan is a protected area known as “Biosphere Reserve of the Monarchs Butterfly” also considered by World Wildlife Fund one of the Global 200 ecoregions identified as priority conservation sites and it is listed as one of the “Eight New Natural wonders for the World Heritage” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Sanctuary Map

The oyamel forest ecosystem is Mexico’s most endangered forest-type. Only 2% of the original forest remains.

 

The Monarch Butterfly within the Native Traditions

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Indigenous believe that the Monarch butterflies the “Sun´s daughters” or “God´s messengers” as they know them, are the souls of children or their beloved ancestors, who came to visit them every year.

One legend says that, Indians who migrated to central Mexico, from the Rocky Mountains, had to leave behind their children and elderly, due to the cold weather that made them difficult to continue the journey. Before being abandoned, they were covered with pollen and tree resin, in order to protect them from the cold. God, feeling compassion for them, turned them into butterflies so they could reach the forest in Michoacán and be reunited with their families.

This spiritual bond is associated with the Day of the Death celebrated on November 2nd; it is a unique ritual to honor death, especially important in Mexico. People wait for the spirits of their ancestors (butterflies) to come every year, they welcomed them with altars decorated with flowers and candles, candies and fruit.

 

 

Early this year, news about the monarchs´ decline during winter seasonal stay in Mexico was alarming, and as a consequence environmental activists react to urge a strategy to save their long habitat across Mexico, United States and Canada to preserve the migration cycle.

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Hopefully the effort needed to restore the journey of this magnificent creature, could be accomplished in a collective amount of actions, to keep on inspiring many generations. The future of the Monarchs´ path in North America and their entirely ecosystem could be brighter again, and along with it, a restoration of our human consciousness for other living beings.

“We cannot win this battle to save species and environment without forging an emotion bond between ourselves and nature as well for we will not fight to save what we do not love” – Stephen Jay Gould.

 

To learn more about the monarchs watch this BBC documentary

BBC documentary Monarch Butterfly

 

About Itzel Lopez

BA in Environmental Engineering with experience in Environmental Impact Statements and Rural Development, Itzel is a Mexican master student enrolled in the program “Culture Environment and Sustainability” at the University of Oslo. Willing to learn from and for Nature; she is highly committed with the environmental education for a sustainable future.

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