Second person linked to butterfly sanctuary found dead in Mexico

Activists fear criminal gangs and illegal loggers involved in deaths

Kate Ng
Sunday 02 February 2020 17:57
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Missing butterfly expert Homero Gomez in Twitter video as his disappearance sparks alarm

The body of a tour guide who worked at a famous butterfly reserve in Mexico has been discovered two days after a prominent monarch butterfly activist was found dead.

Mexican authorities said they are investigating the possible murder of Raul Hernandez, whose body was found beaten and with a head injury possibly caused by a sharp object.

Local media reported Hernandez was found in the early hours of Saturday, in the Ocampo municipality, about 8km from the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

Hernandez was reported missing by his family on 27 January after he left his home in the town of San Pedro Libertad, said the state prosecutor in a statement.

Earlier this week, activist Homero Gomez Gonzalez was found floating in a well in the state of Michoacan, where the reserve is located, two weeks after he vanished.

His disappearance and ensuing death sparked an outcry in Mexico, where environmental and human rights activists are routinely threatened or even killed as a result of their work.

Gonzalez, who fought to defend the monarch butterfly’s wintering grounds from illegal logging, managed the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary located inside the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

Millions of monarch butterflies make a mammoth 2,000-mile journey every year from Canada to central Mexico to escape winter.

However, their survival is endangered by threats to their habitat, caused by climate change and illegal logging.

The Michoacan Human Rights Commission urged authorities to investigate if Gonzalez’s disappearance was connected to illegal loggers, reported Mexico News Daily.

“He is probably hurting the [business] interests of people illegally logging in the area,” said Mayta Cardona, an official at the commission.

But an official with the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas told the Washington Post they did not believe Gonzalez’s disappearance was related to his conservation work.

Michoacan state houses the largest monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico, which is now a Unesco World Heritage site. It is also home to rival drug gangs who fight to control smuggling routes through the Mexican interior, often leading to violent deaths.

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