The migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), known for its spectacular annual journey of up to 4,000 kilometers across America, has entered the ‘Red List of Threatened Species’ of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the category ‘Endangered‘. The destruction of its habitat and climate change are the main causes of the dramatic decline of this species.
The Red List now includes 147,517 species, of which 41,459 are threatened with extinction. “Today’s update to the Red List highlights the fragility of nature’s wonderslike the unique spectacle of the monarch butterflies that migrate thousands of kilometers”, said Bruno Oberle, Director General of the IUCN.
“To preserve the rich diversity of nature, we need effective and fairly governed protected and conserved areas, along with decisive action to respond to climate change and restore ecosystems. In turn, biodiversity conservation supports communities by providing essential services like food, water, and sustainable jobs,” he added.
The migratory monarch butterfly is a subspecies of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The native population, known for its winter migrations from Mexico and California to summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada, has declined by 22% to 72% in the last decade.
Legal and illegal logging and deforestation to make room for agriculture and urban development have already destroyed much of the butterfly’s winter refuge in Mexico and California, while pesticides and herbicides used in intensive agriculture throughout the species’ range kill butterflies and milkweed, the host plant on which monarch butterfly larvae feed.
The species, on the verge of collapse
The climate change it has significantly impacted the migratory monarch butterfly and constitutes a serious threat. The drought limits the growth of milkweed and increases the frequency of catastrophic wildfires.
Also, extreme temperatures trigger earlier migrationsbefore milkweed is available, while severe weather events kill millions of milkweeds.
The western population of the species has a higher Danger of Extinctionhaving decreased by 99.9%, from about 10 million to 1,914 individuals between 1980 and 2021, according to the IUCN.
The eastern populationmajor, has also declined, in its case by 84% between 1996 and 2014. There are questions about whether there are enough butterflies left to maintain populations and stave off extinction.
“It is painful to see monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration flounder at the edge of collapsebut there is signs of hope. Many people and organizations have come together to try to protect this butterfly and its habitats,” said Anna Walker, member of the IUCN-SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group and species survival officer at the New Mexico BioPark Society. , who led the monarch butterfly assessment.
advocated for plant native milkweed, reduce pesticide uses, support the protection of winter sites and contribute to the community science. “We can all play a part in making sure this iconic insect makes a full recovery,” she said.
It is not the only animal in danger. A global reassessment reveals that the 26 species of sturgeon that still exist in the world are already in danger of extinctionup from 85% in 2009. Assessments show that their decline over the past three generations is steeper than previously thought.
Sturgeons in danger
The Yangtze sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus) has been upgraded from ‘Critically Endangered’ to ‘Extinct in the Wild‘, 17 species are now ‘Critically Endangered’, three are ‘Endangered’ and five are ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. The reassessment has also confirmed the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius).
Sturgeons have been overharvested for their meat and caviar for centuries. Despite being protected by international law, poaching continues to affect more than half of sturgeon speciesand stricter application of the regulations on the illegal sale of meat and caviar of this animal is “essential” to stop further population losses, according to the IUCN.
He too tiger has been reassessed, with new figures revealing that there are currently between 3,726 and 5,578 individuals in the wild worldwide. This 40% increase since the last tiger assessment, in 2015, is the result of improvements in monitoring techniquesshowing that there are more tigers left than previously thought, and that global numbers appear to be stable or increasing.
Though the tiger is still ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, demographic trends indicate that projects such as the IUCN Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Program are succeeding and that a recovery is possible as long as conservation efforts are maintained.
The main threats include poaching of tigers, the poaching and legal hunting of their prey, and the fragmentation and destruction of their habitats due to increasing pressures from agriculture and human settlements.