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Great News! This Year’s Monarch Butterfly Migration Shows a Rebounding Population

The beloved monarch butterfly is arriving in greater numbers than ever expected.

Elias Marat

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Monarch Butterfly
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(TMU) — Every fall the monarch butterfly population makes its epic migratory journey across the United States, covering trees like leaves as they make their way to the forests of the Mexican state of Michoacán and the eucalyptus- and pine-rich Californian Central Coast.

The majestic black-and-gold pollinator is unique because it’s one of the only butterfly species that travels as far as 3,000 miles, traveling in vast droves from October to mid-November in a dazzling display that fill skies with the iconic colors, blanketing landscapes as they overwinter and rest before continuing on.

But over the past two decades, the iconic North American monarch has faced sharp population declines. In 1997, an estimated 682 million monarchs traveled through the air, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. But by 2014, the number fell to a staggering 25 million before bouncing back to 150 million in 2016. However, according to a survey released in January by conservation group the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Monarch butterfly “declined to dangerously low levels”—roughly 80 percent—in central Mexico, and 99 percent along California’s coast.

However, this year there have been several reports that the beloved butterfly may actually be making a strong comeback and is arriving in greater numbers than ever expected, according to Better Home and Gardens.

Observers along their eastern migration route in Colorado saw massive amounts of the creatures as they headed south for winter, with video footage captured in October by Colorado Parks & Wildlife depicting dramatic numbers of butterflies resting on trees and bushes at a park near the town of Lamar.

On October 16, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center reported that monarchs had landed in Austin, Texas in numbers far larger than usual, as they fed on the milkweed which grows in abundance throughout Central Texas and fuels their journeys.

The anecdotal evidence from conservationists could also be supported by hard data collected in January of this year by the Center for Biological Diversity, which found that the population resting for winter in Mexico had leaped by 144 percent since the last survey was made in 2018. The population count had even surpassed previous years since 2006, and this year’s weather could be a boon for the monarchs’ egg and larvae survival rate.

Yet while this good news should be welcomed, experts are urging caution. Matthew Shepard, the communications and outreach director at the Xerces Center, noted that researchers can only take accurate population counts while they are clustered at their overwintering sites in Mexico and California.

Shepard explained:

“At this point in the year, we won’t know how monarchs are doing in either the eastern states or the west.

While monarchs are spread across the landscape, it isn’t possible to get an overall count, only a sense of how things are based on the number passing through a few scattered locations.”

In general, the species is still in danger of extinction with previous estimates saying that the monarch faces a 50-75 percent risk of extinction within 20 years and 65-85 percent risk of extinction within 50 years should remain on our minds.

Yet we should also derive hope from the news that monarch populations are modestly rebounding, and a good portion of the credit is due to conservation groups like Xerces Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Monarch Watch, the Monarch Joint Venture and others who have spared no effort to prevent the collapse of the monarch population across North America.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Animals

Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Kill 90 Percent of State’s Wolves in “Brutal War”

Elias Marat

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Idaho’s legislature is swiftly moving forward with a bill that critics say would sanction a “brutal war” on wolves whereby up to 90 percent of the current wolf population would be killed in a bid to protect the interests of the state’s ranchers.

On Wednesday, the Idaho senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. The bill will now move forward to the House chamber, reports Associated Press.

Since teetering at the brink of endangerment years ago, wolf populations were removed from the state endangered species list in 2011. Since then, they have thrived despite Idaho allowing hundreds to be killed by hunters, trappers and state measures to control their numbers. Over the past two years, the wolf population has held steady at about 1,500.

According to federal guidelines, wolf recovery numbers require about 150 wolves in the state.

Republican supporters of the bill said during senate debates that the wolf population has grown entirely out of control, endangering the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters and harming the state economy.

“We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Harris. 

However, critics have blasted the move as rash and potentially damaging to the state’s wildlife.

The Idaho Senate’s sudden move to pass this bill in the eleventh hour incentivizes the cruel deaths of more than 1,000 wolves across the state,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“This brutal war on wolves must be stopped, and we urge the House to deny this bill,” Zaccardi added.

Maggie Howell, the head of the Wolf Conservation Center, also described the move as the latest in a hostile and extreme campaign against wolves that fails to take into account the creatures’ value to the local ecology.

“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she told the New York Times. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”

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As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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Animals

Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever

Elias Marat

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Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.

Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.

In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.

At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.

“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.

Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.

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