Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 11, 1997
Millions of monarch butterflies have recently been sighted. Special thanks to Blake School teacher Jon Dicus and his students, who have just returned from their second annual trip to the monarch wintering sanctuaries in Angangueo, Mexico. Today's report is full of the news they gathered. You are also invited to visit Blake School's WWW site where you can read the students' field reports. While in Angangueo, they lived like exchange students, staying as guests in the people's homes and learning the way of life. Explains Dicus, "The students and I hope by sharing our stories about the people of Angangueo, we can provide a picture of what life is like for the residents of this town and how they live side-by-side with the monarch butterfly."
Before leaving Angangueo, they found a local student who will serve as our field reporter over the coming weeks. Fernando Romero has agreed to take on the job, and will send regular reports from his home town. Fernando is pictured here in his family's store. Here is his first message:
Can you find Angangueo on this map? (Click on the image to make it larger.) It's located about 125 km west of Mexico City. Four of the nine monarch sanctuaries surround this small mountain town! Each winter, after their long migration from the U.S. and Canada, the monarchs rest for five months high in the mountains near Fernando's town.
While we wait for the monarchs' migration to begin, these weekly update will focus on various aspects of the monarchs' over-wintering biology. We will also touch on the economic, sociological, and political issues that make conservation of the monarch sanctuaries so challenging. The following news provides a introduction to these issues:
Largest Monarch Butterfly Reserved Opens for Tourism
Until this year, one nearby sanctuary known as El Rosario was the primary destination for tourists, with as many as 4,000 people visiting the small site in a single day. (See: The Impact of Tourism on Monarch Reserves.) In recent years, an annual income of approximately $50,000 has been raised from admission fees. This money has been shared by the people who own the El Rosario reserve. (These local landowning communities are known as "ejidos".) Meanwhile, landowners of the other monarch reserves had been unable to derive any economic benefits for the protection of their sites. Pressure had been mounting to find a solution to what the ejidos considered an unfair situation. This led to the Mexican government's decision to open Cerra Chincua.
In the 20 years since the monarchs' Mexican wintering sites were first discovered, little progress has been made toward their long-term conservation. Government officials, scientists and conservationists now agree that a basic problem has never been addressed:
To date, the people who own the land that is designated as monarch reserves have been excluded from their own land and have not been compensated. That is, when the monarch reserves were established as sanctuaries by Presidential decree in 1986, these people were forced from using their own land and received nothing in return. As the situation now stands, the monarchs' winter colonies are legally protected by Mexican law as sanctuaries, but the land is still legally owned by the ejidos.
Last week, Blake students visited the people of the Cerro Prieto ejido. These are the people who own the Cerra Chincua monarch sanctuary. According to Tara Ward and Natalie Weiner, "Our visit to the ejido gave us a clear understanding of the conflict between those who fight for conservation in the forest, and those who need the forest to survive. As our guide said, 'La lucha para ellos no es el futuro, la lucha para ellos es el presente.' ('For the people in these communities, the fight is not about a better tomorrow, but is about daily survival.') The students describe their visit in these two reports:
After reading their reports, consider this:
Challenge Question #1
How to Respond to Challenge Question #1
Recommended Map for Tracking the Monarch Migration
The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on February 18, 1997.