Scientists now consider the migrate monarch butterfly is endangered. The population of the beloved orange-black insect has been declining rapidly in recent years.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added the migrating monarch to its “red list” of endangered organisms. They said it is “threatened”. That means it’s two steps away from extinction. When a types extinct, there are no more living members.
Stuart Pimm is an ecologist at Duke University in North Carolina. He was not involved in the new list. He said, “It’s just a… devastating reject. This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”
IUCN estimates that the monarch butterfly population in North America has fallen between 22 and 72 percent in 10 years, depending on the method of measurement.
Nick Haddad is a conservation biologist at Michigan State University. He said: ‘What we are concerned about is the rate of decline. It is very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more endangered. Endangered means being in a dangerous situation.
Haddad estimates that the population of monarch butterflies he studies in the eastern United States has declined by 85 to 95 percent since the 1990s.
In North America, millions of monarch butterflies are making the longest migration of any insect species known to scientists. Animals migrate when they move from one location to another depending on the season.
Monarch butterflies spend the winter in the mountains of central Mexico. Then they begin their journey north. They reproduce many times along the way, thousands of miles in length. The young butterflies that reach southern Canada begin their journey back to Mexico at the end of summer.
A smaller group of butterflies winters off the coast of California, then flies off over several states west of the Rocky Mountains in the spring and summer. This population has seen an even sharper decline than the eastern monarchs, although there was a small increase last winter.
Emma Pelton is affiliated with the non-profit Xerces Society, which studies western butterflies. She said there are many reasons for the loss of the butterflies. One of the reasons is that the insects have lost their habitat, or home, of course, as people remove or damage the trees and plants they like to live on. Another is increased agricultural use of herbicides (chemicals that kill plants) and pesticides (chemicals that kill insects). The third reason is climate change.
“There are things people can do to help,” she said, including planting milkweed. Young butterflies in the form of caterpillars dependent on dairy cattle.
Non-migrating monarch butterflies in Central and South America would not be as endangered. The United States has no monarch butterflies listed under the Endangered Species Act. But several environmental groups think it should be mentioned.
IUCN also released new estimates for the global tiger population, which are 40 percent higher than the most recent estimates from 2015.
The new wild tiger population estimates come from better tiger counting methods. There may even be an increase in their total numbers, Dale Miquelle said. He is coordinator of the tiger program of the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society.
Over the past 10 years, tiger populations have increased in Nepal, northern China and possibly India. But tigers have completely disappeared from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Miquelle said. Tigers remain on the endangered species list.
I’m Faith Pirlo. And I’m Jill Robbins.
Christina Larson covered this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for English learning.
Words in this story
migrate – v. traveling to another accommodation (temporary in the case of animals)
devastating – adjective. very harmful or harmful
reject – n. movement to a smaller amount
types – n. class of plants or animals whose members share the same principal characteristics and are capable of reproducing with each other.
conservation – n. the act of saving and protecting the environment
caterpillar – n. small, worm-like animal that feeds on plants and eventually grows into a butterfly or moth
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