Conservation: Rise In Illegal Logging Threatens Butterflies

Monarch butterflies gather on a tree branch at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere reserve in Sierra Chincua, Mexico. (Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

Conservation: Rise In Illegal Logging Threatens Butterflies

Deforestation on increase again at Mexican reserve

The traditional wintering site for tens of millions of monarch
butterflies in central Mexico is under continuing threat after
conservationists failed to halt the onslaught of illegal logging in the

The butterflies are in the middle of their annual journey
of up to 2,800 miles from eastern Canada to the small area of evergreen
fir forest that acts as their wintertime sanctuary. But, despite an
unprecedented drive to protect it, deforestation is threatening the
Monarch Biosphere Reserve and its visitors.

A report from the
WWF showed deforestation of the area up nearly 10% over the last year,
at 260 hectares (650 acres), reversing a downward trend established
with the help of unparalleled efforts by the authorities and

"The problem is more complicated than we had thought," said Omar Vidal, director of WWF Mexico. "It is very worrying."

the latest figures came out activists and government officials were
hinting at victory in the battle to protect the mountainside reserve,
which was formed in 1986 from land owned by 38 communities.
Deforestation soared after the arrival of the logging mafias in 2001,
reaching a peak of 460 hectares in 2006. The impending disaster led to
unprecedented efforts to protect the reserve's 11,000 hectare core.
Police and the army manning checkpoints cracked down on trucks piled
high with logs leaving the reserve and local people were offered
financial incentives to conserve the forest, and advice on other ways
of making money, such as tourism.

"We were making such good
inroads with the local people we thought it was only a matter of time
before all the communities joined in," said Ernesto Enkerlin, head of
the National Commission of Protected National Areas. A 48% drop in
deforestation the previous year fired the optimism, boosted by the
declaration of the reserve as a World Heritage Site this summer. But
meanwhile the logging mafias had cemented ties to the Crescencio
Morales community, which is now responsible for 92% of deforestation in
the reserve.

The latest figures have led to calls for emergency
measures to persuade the community to switch to conservation. But the
loggers have a reputation for violence and intimidation, and the
authorities worry that rewarding the transgressors would send the wrong

Lincoln Brower, an expert on the monarch, said the fact
that the butterflies, which arrive in November, often head for the same
patch of forest their great grandparents abandoned the previous spring
adds to the threat. One colony, he said, arrived at a traditional site
in 2006 only to be wiped out because inadequate tree cover allowed
temperatures to drop too low. There was nothing obviously stopping them
moving to healthy forest nearby. "The logging has got to stop.
Otherwise it's a catastrophe," he said.

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