The Butterflies and Their People Project

The Butterflies and Their People Project is a locally-run Asociación Civil (non-profit organization) registered and located in the village of Macheros in the State of México in México. Macheros has one of the entries to the Cerro Pelon Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, the site where the monarch butterflies’ astounding annual migration from Canada to Mexico was first confirmed in 1975. Despite this distinction, Macheros remains a marginalized peasant community with few sources of income—apart from illegal logging.

Storm 2016
Monarchs need thick forest cover and old growth trees to protect them from inclement weather

Habitat loss along the entire monarch butterfly migratory route has decreased size of Mexico’s monarch overwintering sites by at least 84% over the last 20 years. Low population numbers means that we could be one winter storm away from extinguishing the monarchs’ migratory roosts in Mexico entirely. As the world heats up, severe weather events have become increasingly common. Monarchs need thick forest cover and old growth trees to protect them from inclement weather. Effective forest protection on the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve more crucial than ever.

Illegal LoggingLogging causes habitat loss in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. But people continue to log because they have no other economic options. Our project addresses both issues by hiring local people to protect the butterfly forest. The fate of the monarchs and that of the people who live alongside them are intimately interconnected: we cannot safeguard one without safeguarding the other.

Project goals include:

  • Protecting the forest of Cerro Pelón by increasing the presence of paid personnel.
  • Providing local people with stable, full-time employment as forest arborists.
  • Training arborists to participate in monarch butterfly citizen science, including
    • monitoring colony size
    • monitoring reforestation efforts
    • monitoring natural regeneration for comparison
    • keeping an accurate record of the incidence of illegal logging.
  • Sharing the information collected by arborists with the transnational monarch community through regular reports on this website.