Gone from Cerro Pelon


March 20, 2018 by Ellen Sharp

The monarchs of Cerro Pelón have finally definitively departed. The CEPANAF rangers and Butterflies & Their People arborists saw some still clinging to trees on the afternoon of March 18. By the next morning, the trees emptied out and the air filled with butterflies. By midday of the 19th, they were all gone. Many seemed to have stopped over in El Rosario on their way out, where their numbers swelled over the last few weeks.

On March 20, our last guests of the season departed, and Joel and I set out to run long-delayed errands, which took us on a circuitous route around Cerro Pelón. That found us on the Zitácuaro-Morelia tollway just north of the mountain. And suddenly there they were everywhere, crossing the highway, pumping their wings, pushing north against the wind. We counted at least two dozen monarchs in two minutes. And just as had happened to me when I saw them pouring in on Day of the Dead, my eyes welled up at the sight of them.

This time my tears were more relieved than joyful. Relieved that the monarchs were doing what they were supposed to be doing when they were supposed to be doing it, on the first day of spring. And relieved that a successful season had come to an end, leaving us with time to turn our attention to things other than butterfly tourism. Things like how to make sure the monarchs’ forest stays intact in their absence now that the butterfly season is over and our neighbors are no longer paid to take people to see the monarch colony.

For more on our efforts to create employment alternatives for the monarchs’ Mexican neighbors and how you can help, visit The Butterflies & Their People. Logging causes habitat loss in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, but people continue to log because they have no other economic options. Our project addresses both issues by hiring local people to protect the butterfly forest. The fate of the monarchs and that of the people who live alongside them are intimately interconnected: we cannot safeguard one without safeguarding the other.

Ellen Sharp

Co-owner, JM Butterfly B&B

Director, The Butterflies & Their People Project, AC