Mexican Loggers Slaughter
22 Million Monarch Butterflies
To Get Forest
By Elizabeth Fullerton

Photos Courtesy Sue Kovios

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - To regain protected forest land, loggers may have deliberately wiped out some 22 million Monarch butterflies which migrate annually from Canada to Mexico for the winter, a top environmentalist said on Tuesday.
Homero Aridjis, head of the environmental lobby Group of 100, told Reuters loggers were believed to have sprayed pesticide on the orange and black butterflies in order to regain some 216 square miles of forest declared protected by the government.
``There has been a massive slaughter of the butterflies in two sanctuaries,'' Aridjis said. ``This will affect the reproduction process completely. Now we don't know how many butterflies will come this autumn.''
Millions of monarch butterflies migrate some 3,000 miles annually to flee the icy winter in Canada and the United States for the warmer fir forests in Mexico's central Michoacan state, some 70 miles west of Mexico City.
For five months of the year, Michoacan's trees are turned into a flaming orange and the forest is carpeted with the delicate winged creatures.
The migration has taken place for the past 10,000 years, Aridjis said. The butterflies normally arrive in early November and return north to lay eggs at the end of March.
In November last year, the government of former President Ernesto Zedillo extended the land devoted to five sanctuaries.
The move was in response to a study showing that farming and illegal logging had destroyed 44 percent of the original forest since 1971. Without drastic action, the study predicted the original forest would disappear in under 50 years.
``The new decree could have prompted this,'' Aridjis said. ''If there are no butterflies they can claim the trees without problem.''
But government environmental watchdog Profepa said it had not heard of the butterfly slaughter, according to inspector Joel Rodriguez.
``We haven't ever registered people using pesticides. But it's one of the zones where they have the most illegal logging,'' he said. ``It (the butterfly deaths) could also be a result of the freezing this winter which happens every four or five years.''
The U.S.-based nonprofit group Packard Foundation donated more than $5 million to the Worldwide Fund for Nature to help the Mexican government rent or buy logging rights from local residents to compensate for lost income while developing alternative job sources.
Aridjis said the loggers had targeted two sanctuaries -- Cerro San Andres and Las Palomas -- in the past two weeks.
``The wings of the butterflies found inert on the ground had a strange luster and there was a smell of pesticide and petrol in the sanctuaries,'' he said.


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