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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 21, 2001

Today's Report Includes:

Field Notes from the Mexican Monarch Sanctuaries

Eligio Garcia Observes an Important Change
Nearly every Friday since mid-December, Eligio has visited to the Sierra Chincua. On February 16th, he observed an important change for the first time this season, "ya observe un apareamiento," he says.

This is a change he's been watching for. It signals that the monarchs are preparing to produce the next generation.

Challenge Question #5:
"How are the monarchs that are now over-wintering in Mexico physically different from all other monarch generations?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Field Notes from Dr. Bill Calvert
"Greetings from Mexico. On Sunday we climbed the dusty trail to the top of Cerro Herrada, the seldom visited colony to the east of Valle de Bravo. The ascent takes about one hour and is very steep. The butterflies were bunched in area about 10 meters by 20 meters, on the east face of the Cerro. Our guide said the population is very small this year because farmers in the north were spaying corn with poisons. The butterflies were eating corn and dying at the rate of 20% per day.

Challenge Question #6:
"What do you think the Mexican guide has heard about? List the information that you think is correct, partially correct, and incorrect."

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

"As we started down we encountered a large group of school children of mixed ages. When I inquired as to how old one small girl was who had walked up this steep trail, I was told that she was only six. It occurred to me that different cultures have very different expectations of their children.

Courtesy of Jim Edson

"A group of school kids from Minnesota arrived over the weekend, and on Monday we went to the base of Cerro Herrada. Monarchs often pour down this mountain from mid AM to mid PM to drink water from watered arroyos and flowing streams. But alas, the weather had been cool and cloudy so we weren't treated to this spectacle. Tonight we will see another natural wonder--the Great-tailed Grackles aggregating by the thousands in the trees of the Malinalco plaza.

"I'll be back in touch next week, after we've visited the major monarch colonies surrounding Angangueo."

Bill Calvert (from a phone booth in Michoacan)

Life in Sanctuary Region


A Day in the Life of a Mexican Student
" 'Mexicans, at the cry of battle lend your swords and bridle; and let the earth tremble at its center upon the roar of the cannon...' Every Monday morning, we sing the himno nacional mexicano (Mexican National Anthem) but only the first verse, because it's a very long song," begins Noemi de Jesus.

A Day in the Life of a Mexican Teacher
"The part of my job that can be the most difficult is the challenge of working with students from all different living situations. Some of the students go to secondary schools in town at age 12, but quite a few go to work on their family farms, or marry as early as 13 and start families within their home village."

As you read today's vignettes about life in the sanctuary region, think about Dr. Calvert's remarks, look for examples, and then tell us your thoughts:

Challenge Question #7:
"How are the expectations of children different in our different cultures?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Headline News: Mexico to Crack Down on Illegal Logging
All last week, newspapers throughout Mexico announced a national campaign to crack down on illegal logging. A new "superpolicia," made up of federal police and the army, will be created. The monarch reserve is one of four high-priority areas targeted for this new mano duro (strong handed) approach. Authorities estimate an annual loss of 17 million cubic meters of forest, instead of the 9 million that is authorized for cutting. Up until this time, only 200 forest inspectors were responsible to combat illegal logging across the entire country.

Deforestation Maps Show Significant Loss of the Monarch's Forest
These maps show the changes in the monarch forest between 1971 and 1999. "What in 1971 was nearly continuous high quality forest is now a series of islands with large spaces of degraded forest between them," say two of the authors, Dr. Lincoln Brower and Monica Missrie/World Wildlife Fund-Mexico.

From a manuscript in review by "Conservation Biology" titled "Quantitative changes in forest quality in a principal overwintering area of the monarch butterfly in the states of Michoacan and Mexico: 1971 to 1999"; Courtesy of World Wildlife Fund, Mexico, and the authors, L. P. Brower, G. Castilleja, A. Peralta, J. Lopez-Garcia, L. Bojorquez, S. Diaz, D.Melgarejo, and M. Missrie. 2001.




The World Wildlife Fund report explains, "Causes for this forest degradation are multiple, including excessive and illegal commercial logging, wood harvesting for domestic use, forest conversion to agriculture, and damage from periodic fires. These multiple negative effects on the oyamel forest ecosystem are incompatible with the needs of the monarch butterfly and, over the long term, those of the local inhabitants as well."
Mexican Students Make Classroom Sanctuaries
for the Symbolic Monarchs

When visiting the sanctuary area schools in November and January as part of the Symbolic Monarch Migration, we delivered copies of these deforestation maps to the teachers. The moment they saw the maps, the reaction was always the same--an audible gasp, followed by a lively discussion. "Just look at how much of the forest is gone!," they would exclaim. "But it's really no surprise. We hear the logging trucks all night going past our houses, taking wood from the mountains under the cover of darkness."

The teachers want the students to understand that the forest is their heritage--that it must be protected for their own needs, as well as for the needs of the monarchs. They decided to have the students create "forest sanctuaries" in their classrooms for the Symbolic Monarchs. All winter long, each student can keep an eye on his own butterfly and then send the butterfly back north in the spring. The teachers hope this will be a year-long reminder of the importance of forest conservation.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #5 (#6 or #7).
3. In the body of the your message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on February 28, 2001.

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