Rapidly falling population of monarch butterflies has set alarm bells ringing among conservationists who have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the species to its endangered species list.
The agency has also agreed to help in the process of study and review. It is going to conduct a one year review and kick start a campaign which will include the general public. Scientific and commercial data of the species will be collected within a time frame of 60 days and will include data on the insects’ anatomy and morphology, distribution of the population, habitat necessities, genetics and taxonomy, distribution patterns, population levels, life history, heat-tolerance, and conservation methods.
The review was a result of a joint petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to monarch butterfly under the endangered protection.
The Center for Biological Diversity has presented the case very forcefully and convincingly. The steep fall in the Monarch Butterfly population is caused by the rampant use of genetically engineered crops which are resistant to the Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide that kills milkweed. As a result the primary source of food for the monarch caterpillar, milkweed plant is getting destroyed.
Other factors which include changing weather conditions, drought, heat waves, rapid urban expansion, and have all encroached upon the monarch butterflies natural habitat. According to Center for Biological Diversity estimates, the Monarch butterflies have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat, roughly the size of Texas. The population has also plummeted from 1 billion to about 35 million in the ensuing time frame.
The population of Monarch butterfly has fallen by 90% in the last two decades. These butterflies are mostly found in the United States and then migrate to Canada and Mexico in the winters. The path of their migration is peppered with hazards like changing environment and weather patterns.
Sarina Jepsen of the Xerces Society said, “We are extremely pleased that the federal agency in charge of protecting our nation’s wildlife has recognized the dire situation of the monarch. Protection as a threatened species will enable extensive monarch habitat recovery on both public and private lands.”