The instantly recognizable flashes of fiery orange and black mark the iconic wing pattern of the Monarch butterfly. Flying south from Canada, all the way to Michoacán, Mexico, the Monarch’s migration pattern is as extraordinary as that of its wings.
At the end of this journey, for a few months, they rest and breed in Michoacán where they are protected by a 13,000-hectare biosphere reserve. Here, the survival of the Monarch butterfly depends entirely on the native Oyamel tree, the Abies Religiosa or ‘Sacred Fir’. Hundreds of millions of butterflies pass the winter clung to these firs.
Nowadays, the area preserved for the Monarchs and their migratory route has come under threat. Trees are illegally harvested by those who do not realize their enormous role in the ecosystem. Intensifying this problem, a major forest fire in 1978 caused massive deforestation, and the subsequent seasonal rains, washed away fertile soil, leaving 25% of the reserve’s land degraded and in urgent need of restoration. Despite efforts over the past thirty years, natural restoration is not occurring at a rate sufficient to protect the Monarch butterfly’s life-supporting habitat.
Working alongside CONAFOR (The Mexican Ministry of Forestry) and CONANP (The Mexican Ministry of Protected Natural Areas), WWF and, crucially, the local community, Land Life Company began this reforestation journey in 2016. By teaching local farmers innovative planting techniques, we aim to restore 100 hectares of degraded forest, a vast addition to the Monarch’s precious habitat.
The disappearance of the trees not only affects the Monarch butterfly but also the local communities that rely on the forest. The disadvantaged indigenous Mazahuas communities have engaged in the environmental stewardship and protection of the reserve, undertaking 24-hour surveillance to prevent illegal logging.