Animal Law

Iconic monarch butterfly needs protection as endangered species, advocacy groups say in US petition


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An iconic American butterfly needs protection as an endangered species because of climate change, the widespread use of a herbicide that has eliminated much of its food supply, and other factors, advocacy groups contend.

Joined by scientist Lincoln Brower, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and the Xerces Society filed a petition (PDF) on Tuesday with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service seeking protection for the monarch butterfly, whose population has dwindled from 1 billion to 35 million over the past 20 years.

Familiar to millions who have seen the orange-and-black butterfly emerge from its chrysalis as part of an elementary school project or spotted it fluttering around flowers at their homes, the monarch is suffering because of genetic engineering of crops and pesticides that have greatly reduced its habitat and the milkweed on which it feeds, the petitioners contend. They also cite climate change, disease and predation and a lack of effective regulation among the factors contributing to what is described as a precipitous decline in population.

“We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans,” said senior scientist Tierra Curry of the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”

See also:

Des Moines Register: “Butterflies flock to Des Moines’ north side”

National Geographic: “Monarch Butterfly’s Reign Threatened by Milkweed Decline”

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