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The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies in Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that comprises of over 50,000 hectares northwest of Mexico City.

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that comprises of over 193 square miles (50,000 ha) of mountainous pine-oak forests northwest of Mexico City along the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Not only is this Biosphere Reserve an important conservation area, it is also a World Heritage Site. Monarch butterflies in North America are live in two regions: California and east of the Rocky Mountains. The monarch's that make the journey to Mexico originate east of the Rocky Mountains. Here, every winter, millions of migrating monarch butterflies make this area their home. The Reserve aims to not only protect the Monarch butterflies but also the ecosystem that they rely on.

Monarch butterflies are very intriguing. They are the only known species of butterfly to make long yearly north-south migrations. Every winter, from October to March, millions of monarch butterflies make the nearly 2500 mile (4,000 km) trip from the US to the Reserve in central Mexico.

When the butterflies arrive at the Reserve, they congregate forming colonies, clustering on the trees in the forested hills. These Monarch colonies transform the trees into moving orange masses, bending branches under their collective weight. The reason for such concentrated clustering is to conserve as much heat as possible during the cold months.

A migrating monarch butterfly's life span is approximately 2 to 7 months which means that a single butterfly will not live through the entire migratory cycle. It is a mystery how the monarchs return to the same area year after year. Some believe that they inherit the flight pattern. In the spring they will begin their migration towards eastern Canada, during which four generations will be born and die.

The history of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve dates back to the 1970s when scientists began to notice patterns in the migration of wintering monarchs. The protection of the area was made official in 1980, when President Jose Lopez Portillo decreed it a protected wildlife refuge. Throughout the 1980s, the management of the area developed, with the primary focus concentrated on the direct welfare of the butterflies themselves.

The year 2000 was a significant year in the history of the area as it was promoted by a legal decree to the status of a federal biosphere reserve and was officially given the title of Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, or Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in English. In 2008 it was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

While there has been some threat by illegal logging and growing tourism, the authorities in charge of the area have worked hard with the local communities that occupy the protected land to help with conservation efforts. Nowadays, efforts have shifted from the primary welfare of the Monarch butterflies to being more focused on the conservation and maintenance of the broad ecosystem to which they belong.