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Just about anyone who grew up in the eastern United States will recall the beautiful black and brown Monarch butterflies that migrate en masse from Mexico to breed and feed in the US and Canada, before returning to slumber in a central Mexican forest. But this year their numbers have dropped by 59 percent, according to the latest WWF-led annual census of the insects. In part, this has to do with the loss of milkweed that butterflies require for food and to breed, which has declined in parts of the United States where genetically modified soybean and corn crops are grown. But that’s not the only reason, according to the experts.

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While Omar Vidal, WWF Director of Mexico, says that the southern neighbor has done its part to slash the illegal logging that jeopardized Monarch butterfly populations in the past and that it is now time for the United States and Canada to control their environmental contribution to their decline. But Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College in Virginia, who has studied the insect and its extraordinary migration for more than half a century, told The GuardianThe Guardian “They are playing down and ignoring the continued degradation of the microclimate of the forest that is critical to the butterflies.”

He told the paper that on a recent visit to the Mexican forest where the butterflies sleep in great clusters, he acted as a guide to Jimmy Carter, and witnessed small-scale logging, water diversion by locals, and unregulated tourism that all have a lethal impact on the butterflies. However, last year’s prolonged hot and dry weather in the United States could also destroy the eggs. The population of Monarch Butterflies has been in for the better part of seven years. Brower warns that failure to act could endanger their migration.

Via The Guardian