Tamela Mann - Overcomer

Monarch Butterflies Listed as Endangered, On the Edge of Extinction

Monarch butterflies cluster at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to begin their wintering in Pacific Grove, Calif., in 2021. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The migratory monarch butterfly, a North American icon with a continent-spanning annual journey, now faces the threat of extinction, according to a top wildlife monitoring group.

Thursday’s decision by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to declare the species endangered comes as years of habitat destruction and rising temperatures have decimated the fluttering orange itinerants’ population.

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The species’ numbers have dropped between 22 and 72 percent over the past decade, according to the new assessment. Monarchs in the Western United States are in particular danger: The population declined by an estimated 99.9 percent, from as many as 10 million butterflies in the 1980s to fewer than 2,000 in 2021.

“It is difficult to watch monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration teeter on the edge of collapse, but there are signs of hope,” said Anna Walker, an entomologist at the New Mexico BioPark Society who led the butterfly assessment.

The loss of monarchs underscores a looming extinction crisis worldwide, with profound implications for the humans who have caused it. One million species could disappear, according to the United Nations, a potential calamity not just for plants and animals but also for the people who depend on ecosystems for food and fresh water.

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SOURCE: Washington Post, Dino Grandoni

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