Mexican rescue plan for 2bn monarch butterflies

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The Independent US

The immediate fate of one of Earth's great migrations, the 3,000 mile journey made by two billion monarch butterflies, has been secured by a pioneering conservation agreement.

The immediate fate of one of Earth's great migrations, the 3,000 mile journey made by two billion monarch butterflies, has been secured by a pioneering conservation agreement.

The Mexican government has agreed to pay farmers to conserve the forest where the monarch spends each winter, in an attempt to halt legal and illegal logging that has reduced the forest's size by 44 per cent in 15 years.

The monarch became a symbol of the environmental movement last year when it was found that its caterpillars are seven times more likely to die from eating milkweed plants carrying pollen from genetically altered corn plants. But the insects are also under threat from the widespread destruction of their winter migration grounds.

Every autumn some two billion monarchs migrate from Canada and the US to winter in the high-altitude balsam fir forest 70 miles west of Mexico City. Colonies of four million per acre carpet the area orange before heading back north in April.

There are fears that the shrinking forest is affecting migration patterns and could precipitate a population crash, with the creatures risking extinction in 50 years.

The new Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, supported by a conservation fund worth £3.5m, will cover 140,000 acres.

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