The International Union for Conservation of Nature has added the migratory monarch butterfly to its Red List of Threatened Species as endangered, the group said in a release Thursday.
“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, a species survival officer for invertebrate pollinators at the New Mexico BioPark Society who works in partnership with the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
CNN has reached out to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The IUCN estimates the native population of monarch butterflies has shrunk by between 22% and 72% over the past decade, and the western population has declined by 99.9% between the 1980s and 2021 — putting it at the greatest risk of extinction.
Habitat loss and the climate crisis
Destruction of habitat and rising temperatures fueled by the climate crisis are increasingly threatening the species, the IUCN said.
The butterfly’s reproduction, migration and hibernation interlock with seasonal changes, which global warming is disrupting.
Hope for the butterflies
But it’s not too late to protect monarch butterflies, experts say.
“They (scientists) recommend promoting the growth of milkweed, maintaining dense forests and reducing the use of pesticides in the monarch range,” the World Wildlife Fund said.
And the monarch butterflies have popular fascination on their side.
“We are encouraged by the thousands of individuals who have made it their mission to help monarchs by planting milkweed and nectar flowers and protecting these animals from pesticides,” Black said.
Wendy Caldwell, who has been working with monarchs since about 2007, told CNN that she quickly learned the power of this beloved insect to captivate people and get them outdoors and engaged in conservation.
“I think that this IUCN listing will continue to help us grow that momentum just by generating awareness that monarchs are in trouble,” she said. “They need our help, and everybody has a role to play.”