Monarch butterfly ecology and conservation
Monarch butterfly conservation
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
16 Jan 1999
- Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve; Llano de Villalobos
- 19.66988 -100.28092
- SONY TCD-D7
- Sennheiser MKH 40
- Sennheiser MKH 30
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo; Sennheiser MKH40 Cardioid Mid Mic and MKH30 Bidirectional Side Mic through Sonosax Preamp into Sony TCD7
LOG - DAT 3
MS set up with D7 - MKH-40 as the mid, MKH-30 as a figure 8 going into sonnesex ?) pre-amps into D7
morning of 1/16 at butterfly reserve - recording ambi
1:40 wind blowing through trees w/some fidgeting by Leo
VG 2:43-3:30 van drives by
3:31 ambi of area - wind, some faint birds
NG 4:21-5:01 (our) van drive by
5:19-5:50 more ambi of area - wind through trees
at ¿head of trail¿ to monarch site [LB = Lincoln Brower]
7:19 LB - my name is Lincoln Brower. I am professor of zoology from the University of Florida, now at Sweet Briar college. We have gotten all of our gear together and we are up here in the Ellanas de la Villa Lobos which is a staging area just below the ridge of mtns where the monarchs form their colonies. And it is about a mile walk from here to the butterflies. (some music in bg at top of this cut.) We used to be able to drive up when this was a research area only to the top of the ridge and it was much easier to do the research, but now with all the tourist facilities here we have a very long walk ahead of us. So it will take us about prob 45 mins to get to the butterflies or maybe a little bit more now - it used to take us about 15 mins.
JB - so we better get started
8:08 LB - we better get started - we better get going - but we are really luck today bc it is absolutely crystal clear and as things warm up which they will do - we saw ice coming in a long the sides of the road - those little ice crystals of frost are what kill the butterflies if the are exposed to the night sky. Dew forms and then it freezes and ice crystals literally explode the cells of the butterflies - and so that is really lethal to them. And you will see these extremes on a very clear day. You will see ice coming in w/in 2 or 3 hours the butterflies will have warmed up enough to fly around. So this is going to be an exciting day for sure. 8:51
9:07-9:50 ambi in area of above interview
BEGINNING THE WALK TO SITE:
10:20 LB - the weather is absolutely crystal clear as we predicted from the satellite photograph in the newspaper yesterday, but one of the things I am really interested in is the clouds forming over my head. If we were down lower we would see no clouds at all , but the masses of air have water vapor in them - in the vapor phase - and as that mass of air is blown over the 11,000 foot massif here it turns to clouds and if there was more moisture down bellow we would see more clouds up here which would gradually merge in into fog (horse neigh) and there is a question as to whether these little mtn islands where the butterflies occur is sufficient to supply the trees with water (another neigh) and there is a recent discovery in california..that fog is extremely important as it goes through the needles of the trees. This was recently discovered in the redwood forest¿..11:29 and what happens is as the fog rolls through the forest it actually condenses - fog is little particles of water it is not in the vapor phase¿.MORE ABOUT THIS ¿¿fog drip. And I have been up here in a foggy day in an open area like this llanos like we are standing in now and there is just fog rolling through - it is like you are driving through fog, walking through fog - and outside the forest in a clearing it was just very very foggy rolling through and then we walked 50 feet into the forest and water was condensing and it was actually raining - and so I think this fog drip is very important. And we need to establish that bc there are important arguments as to why the trees should be thinned by those who are trying to rationalize a certain amount of economic activity up here. And in the butterfly areas, in my opinion, the butterflies need to be 100% protected and that is based on yrs of research..
13:27 LB - we are here at the Llanos de la Villa Lobos, at the entrance gate, we just paid our fee. It is 10:00 on Sat the 16th of January 99. It is brilliantly clear day with light adiabatic cloud formation coming from the - let me just stop a min here - check it with my compass - south south west. That means there is very little moisture in the air today and that means that the butterflies when they warm up at about 11:00 are going to be extremely active. So, 10:05 - we will see how long it takes to walk this path that we used to be able to drive¿
14:30 JB - how many trips have you made into these mtns?
14:33 LB my first trip into these mtns was made in 1977 so that would have been 22 yrs just about now and I have been down here almost every year and some yrs I have been down here 3 or 4 times. So I guess I have prob been here about 35 to 40 diff times and these involve grad students form the university of florida where I recently retired from and we would set up camp in this beautiful pristine environment for up to 4 months. 15:15 and I used to come down during the inter-term break from the university and get our experiments set up and the main thing we studied over the yrs is where are the colonies, how big are they and then we realized there was a major conflict btwn the thinning of these trees and the health of the over-wintering butterflies and so much of our research - 15:50 I am going to just stop for a moment to get my breath bc I am 67 goin on 68
16:00 JB do you still have the same feelings for the monarchs that you did when you started this research?
LB - haha¿.yeah.
JB - how do you feel when you come up here and see this?
16:10LB - well, I have been studying the monarch as a biological species since 1954 so that is longer than I care to even think and the magic of the creature is more every year as I study it.
JB - why is that?
16:29 LB - well, bc it is very beautiful and to think of an insect that weighs about the weight of a penny flying all the way down here from Toronto, Canada and then getting back, surviving the winter and getting all the way back to the gulf coast, laying its eggs and setting a stage for the next generation. I mean the migratory phenomenon is unique in the animal kingdom and not only that but all stages of it from the life history of the butterfly on through the build up of the population during the summer and through several generations and then suddenly the butterflies get turned off reproductively and they go into the migratory mode and they are migrating up to maybe 1500 to 2000 miles all the way to this place and every year they come to the same area. We know that now. There are 12 massifs that we know harbor these butterflies. So when I see them - when anybody sees the butterflies for the first time is overwhelmed by the beauty - not only by the beauty but by the intellectual beauty of it. bc there is so much behind it and if you think about it there are prob 10 million butterflies per hectare and we have seen colonies larger than 10 hectares in sze - that is 100 million butterflies! 18:00 now each of those has about a quarter of a gram of fat in it and so if you multiply the buttery that is in these butterflies and it really looks like butter when you open up and dissect them
JB - that is why they call them butterflies!
18:18 LB - I don¿t think so!¿¿¿I don¿t know why butterflies are called butterflies - but anyway if you think about all that sitting in the forest here, in a very very tight circumscribed area the colony up here is said to be this year 2 ½ hectares in extent - that means we are going to be looking at least 2 ½ times ten which is 25 million butterflies. Now, the reason I was interested I coming to Mexico (some huffing as he walks) when these areas were discovered in 1975 was bc the monarch butterfly was known since the last century to fee on toxic plants - toxic milkweeds, and the toxins are a whole interesting story bc they are very ¿.I think we better stop for a moment¿.I don¿t like to get my heart racing too fast¿.well it turns out that milkweed plants are toxic and toxins are related to digatoxin which is used in the treatment of human heart disease and the monarch butterflies physiology that they can tolerate concentrations that if we had it in our blood it would kill us - it would paralyze the heart. But the reason it is clinically useful - that digatoxin is useful is bc that a lot of heart disease involves irregular beating and weak beating and digatoxin since the 15th or 16th century which was a component of the fox glove in england - and it is called digiatoxin bc the fox glove scientific name is digatalis. So digiatoxin - anyway it takes a weakly beating heart and strengthens it. but if you eat - injest too much of it the first thing that will happen is that you will get¿(more on this)¿
21:01 JB - is this why the monarch is so plentiful in nature bc it has this chemical defense system that other butterflies don¿t have?
LB - I think the answer to that is yes, but I am sure there are other reasons that they are so plentiful that are in fact related to the migratory behavior. But what I was driving at now is in 1975 I was involved in this chemical finger printing¿..diff milkweeds have diff compounds ¿ and you can id them very easily¿. And so my first interest¿.was that we could fingerprint monarchs to specific milkweeds. And since the milkweed plants have discreet geographic distribution you can tell where they come from. And so one of our real questions up here was do these butterflies come from - let¿s say the colonies are spread over in an area of about 70 by 30 miles. 22:08 So are the southern and eastern colonies picking up more colonies from the eastern US and the westerly picking up more from the prairies? But what we found was when we looked at the carinaloid (sp) patterns
of these butterflies they are the same in all the diff colonies. And that told us that they are pretty much coming in from the same area - from a whole area of the US and mixing. And if you think about it it kind of makes sense. The US and southern canada is like a huge triangle upside down with the point of the triangle right here where the butterflies are overwintering. 22:53 and so they just mix on the way. And in a recent study that was published this month in the proceedings of the natl academy of sciences ¿ confirmed this using a new isotope method. 23:05 so we know this is what the biologists call a panmictic (sp) reproductive strategy. The whole gene pool which comes down here represented by individual butterflies - the butterflies are for the most part virginal when they get here and they don¿t mate until the end of the winter. They mate in february and they are mating like in unbelievable numbers of butterflies - the courtship is another aspect that is wonderful. You see the males catching the females - catching them in the air, dropping to the ground and then they eventually mate - 23:39
JB - for 16 hours I am told¿
lb - well, it depends on the weather! So anyway - this mass of lipid that we talked about earlier represents a potential food supply for animals that eat monarch butterflies. And historically the major predators of adult butterflies have been considered to be birds. So that was my main motivation to get down here - to test the hypothesis that the butterflies down here are protected against bird predation. 24:19 bc if they weren¿t we would expect flocks and flocks of birds to come in from everywhere and just decimate this enormous food supply ¿. So when I first came down here the first thing that I observed was the wings - falling out of the air - and then we looked up and saw several species of birds that were working their way through the forest and picking butterflies out of the clusters¿we discovered that out of about 20 diff species of birds that could eat the butterflies ¿ only 2 were able to deal with these extremely toxic monarch. And so the next 3 or 4 years involved us in figuring out how do these birds eat toxic butterflies and a really nice analogy is that people with shrimp - you take off the shell and eat only the muscle. And it turns out that monarchs, in order to fly this huge distance and get back, have huge muscle in their thorax - 25:45 we head off this way to the left - and the one species of bird is the black back oriole¿¿
26:02 JB - why do the monarch butterflies come back to the oyamel forest - 1500, 2,000 miles every year?
LB - let me just get my breath¿..26:32 our altitude is now 10,760 feet - so we come up over 100 feet¿continue talk about oriole and other birds that eat the monarchs¿¿.
30:34-32:19 ambi of area - soft birds (some of Leo¿s breathing too), some faint talking in bg too
32:46 - 33:54 ambi - horses approaching
36:00 talk of the fires in the area - how they effected the microclimatic condition - one colony was destroyed - prob an aftermath of the el nino fires followed by extreme draught
36:33 LB - in our conservation plan we have been talking about preserving watersheds and this is another key reason to do it. normally at this time of year the butterflies would be pretty high up on the mountains but they have already gone down which means as the spring progresses they will have to go down eve further. And the reason they do that is to get near water and also where the streams are running the humidity in the forest is higher. And so the more this forest is thin at lower altitudes the dryer it is going to be down there 37:07 so with fire at the top - it thinned out the area¿combined with the heavy forest thinning that has gone on down below is putting the butterflies now in a real squeeze¿..LB asking Alejio what he thinks about the future of the forest
Alejio: (first in spanish then translated by Monica): 38:30 what¿s been happening now - the butterflies go down quickly, faster than they used to and consequently brings about the loss of lipids and what will happen is that they will go back up north sooner. 38:46 39:07 - this has happened in other colonies¿¿
39:24 LB - the problem with them leaving early - and they are normally out of here no later than the first week of april - but now it seems as though they are leaving around the 15 of march and they are out of here before the end of march. The problem with that is - for ex in florida where I did my research there are frosts right up until the end of march. And so the milk weeds which are just sprouting and the butterflies will be finding those plants to lay their eggs on when these new fresh sprouts come up and get hit by frost it kills them right back down to the ground and the butterflies can¿t lay their eggs and so the butterflies will keep looking for milkweed, they will get so far north they will not re-establish the spring generation.
40:54 JB - how much of this disruption in the monarchs life cycle is man made?
41:00 LB - I think probably at least 90% of the problem are due to human activity in these forests. I mean we are talking about permitting thinning all around the protected areas and when the 1986 decree was passed they had nuclear zones which were supposed to be 100% protected which were comparable to US natl park - US natl forest were there would be in the buffer zones there would be permitted cutting - thinning to a degree. But what has happened here is that there has been a lot of illegal harvesting inside the nucleus just to keep families - the local poor people - supplied with the wood that they need to survive. But even more importantly has been these permitted cutting on the edges and when they come in to cut on the buffer zone they cut many more trees than they are authorized to cut and that is really serious bc that is the spring staging areas for the monarchs. 42:08 the buffer zones which are imp to the monarch butterflies are to the south facing slopes and that is bc it is warm then and they leave to head back to the US - they actually get down these canyons - it is so beautiful to see them, it is remarkable - it is literally a river of butterflies flowing out.
42:28 JB - And there is no enforcement on those limits of logging here at the oyamel forest?
LB - well, I mean this is always debatable. The govt issues permits to cut trees and they issue permits - they come in and mark the trees that can be cut and they mark more than we would - as monarch biologists - would permit. In fact we would think that the value of this thing to the future of everybody would be far greater if they didn¿t thin at all in these poll watersheds that holds the butterflies. Although everybody tried on the basis of imperfect knowledge in 1986 we know a lot more about monarchs now bc of the research that we have done. 43:16 and it is a combination of the way things work in mexico and the butterfly needs and the future of this whole butterfly phenomenon is going to be utterly dependent on total protection of large watershed areas. 43:31
43:32 JB - now, when we interview Julia Carabias she felt very strongly that it was possible to find a middle ground that would serve both the people that live in the area and the butterflies. That both could be happy. That the people could have enough of a livelihood to get along and that the colonies could remain healthy. Are you as much of an optimist? Do you think that is possible? 44:00
44:01 LB - well, I have spent a great deal of time reading abut biodiversity problems in general in parks and their use and trying to compromise and if you look at the bottom line of this approach it is what I and others call the tortilla syndrome. And that is we always compromise if people are going to be in any way effected by taking trees out of productions- it happens in the US - it happens everywhere. But I think she is being optimistic for political reasons and I am hoping that at the end that the very through analyses that we have done and have presented to INEA which is the interior dept of mexico that they will accept that and they will be able to give back some of the land that has been taken for forest use, but they will have to protect more than they are now and they will have to have areas of total, complete protection. And the reason that it needs to be totally protected - even if you say you can only cut one tree per acre - that doesn¿t happen the reality is that many many trees are cut per acre. And there is no real way of enforcing it unless you do it completely.
45:22 JB - and is Mexico capable of completely protecting an area like this if it decides to?
LB - well I think this are would be in worse shape had it not been for the 1986 decree. But in my judgment - the big problem - once they establish the new reserves - the big problem is going to be protecting them. And in the past there is truly dismal ability to truly protect these forests. There needs to be something comparable to protection of canadian and us national forests. And afterall we are talking about NAFTA and the 3 countries cooperating and it seems to me that lessons learned in some areas such as the US and Canada are applicable more in an economic basis. In other words on an ecological basis. We know how to protect natl parks in US and Canada and although people do not like to use those terms down here, and in the past they have just said well natl parks are just over run and not well protected and that seems to be true. The major step after getting the land tenure problem solved and protecting these watersheds is to set up a truly effective enforcement procedure. 46:44
JB - as we are walking could you point out some of the results of forest thinning
46:54 LB - we are walking through a forest which if were here 3 or 4 yrs ago the trees would be as big around as we are tall. And what we are looking at here is a pretty even age stand of trees and if you look you will see practically no seedlings anywhere. And the absence of seedlings is due to the fact for the most part the area is grazed by cattle and sheep that are allowed in the areas and they trample the seedlings and eat them. Here is a little seedling here - here is a young tree - but if you look at these trees here they are all about the same diameter in size, they are about as big around as your body girth. And these trees are now about 30 - 40 yrs old and this area has been lumbered in the past and it has been lumbered fairly recently in terms of thinning. So what is needed here is the re-establishment of a dynamic ecosystem w/out the influence of humans in here. And that is why natl parks are so imp - bc they allow the natl sequence of ecological succession to take place and there will always be thinning places - bc in the summer time up here you can not believe what the weather is like - it is actually colder than it is now. And you have these horrendous storms that come up and you will see crosses on the trees where ejiditarios have been struck by lightening. And I was in one of those storms of 1993 in the summertime. And we were really scared¿.storms and natural tree falls cause openings. And one f the arguments is that monarchs need to have a certain amount of natural openings in the forest - and that is a rationalization about thinning- and I say there is plenty of natural events that result in trees getting blown over - that this is not a problem (JB - w/out the help of the loggers). Right.
49:28 JB - so this is - although it looks like this beautiful ethereal forest - this beautiful morning - this can be really really harsh environment here.
LB - here we are - walking - we are inside the tropic of Cancer - so we are in the tropics. This is a high montaine cloud forest. The oyamels firs are very limited in their distribution in mexico and they only occur on these mtn tops btwn about 9,500 and 11,300 feet and in the summer time when you are down here you can see there is a cloud cover and if you fly through that and measure it - it coincides exactly to where the trees are growing. So here we are in a high mtn cloud forest and the reason it is so cold here is bc of the altitude, and bc of the fact that there are no horizontal east west mtn ranges in eastern US of any significance when you get a cold front coming down from canada and the arctic it penetrates right through this forest¿.
51:27 JB - let me get back to the question I asked before¿how is it that the monarch butterflies always come back to the oyamel forest every year?
LB - I wish I knew. We know that they do and they frequently occupy exactly the same patch of forest from year to year, but not always and they do move around if the weather is such that - if they happen to land in an area that is exposed to the wind and settle there - they will move into a more dense forest area. Or this year as a result of the desiccation that occurred as a result of El Nino plus a fire that went up right into the core area has resulted in more desiccation and the butterflies have moved down lower. But why do they come back into - basically there are 12 mtn ranges in mexico that are known to have butterfly colonies that occur ever year. In the sierra chincua where we are there can be any where up to 5 colonies in one year. So they are always coming back to the same area that is w/in a 70 by 30 mile square - and how do they do it? I have no idea how they do it - I suspect that prior to the damage to oyamel forest to the east and to the west of here - there are mtns that are totally de-neutered or forests and there are others that are totally degraded. And others can¿t stay here. So I think what we see here is the degraded remnants of the optimal habitats of overwintering monarchs. 53:16
54:06 LB - this is a beautiful area - it reminds me, as you are going up to yosemite natl park -
JB - and this is just 1 of 12 biological islands
54:25 LB - exactly - and I suspect in the past - see these islands occur on what is called the neo-volcanic belt of mexico. There are old mtns called the sierra madre to the east and another range of mtns way to the west of mexico that run north and south¿.but at the latitude that we are at which is about 20 degrees north of the equator. 3 degrees below the tropic of cancer. Where we are in now - and in the past 15 or 20 million yrs up to very recently now - where we are now is extrmely volcanic area combined with uplift. And there have been uplifts¿.and so this area has very recent volcanic cones and ..so the butterflies are on these tall uplifted areas and so - monarchs can follow the mtn range down and then they hit this horizontal range that goes across mexico and w/in that range are these islands and in the past had many more prob - had healthy, wild, oyamel system. And I am sure monarchs were over wintering in many more of these islands than they are now - so they are really reduced to living on 12 islands. 56:08
56:10 JB how do they find their way here considering it was their great grandparents that left here the last yr? It is obviously not learned behavior - do you have any insight to that at all? Or is it just one of these mysterious that won¿t be solved -
56:28 LB - there is the noble prize in biology - I don¿t know the answer to that question. There are lots of hypotheses - one is that they have a clock in them. In fact I wrote a paper on this a couple of yrs ago - which has wide acceptance. If you think about it - let¿s start on sept 21. Sept 21 is the fall equinox. That coincides with the major migration out of the north. And so at that point the butterflies have a due south bearing - -now think of a compass inside a butterfly - so that everyday the butterflies are changing course about 1 degree on average. So, they start out in september and they go due south. Now, they are pulling further and further westward as everyday passes. And so as they migrate through the united states out of canada - through the US towards mexico they gradually assume a southwesterly course and we know that is true from experimental observations. So now - if we go to the end of - let¿s say the end of october - the butterflies are going to be following down the sierra madre on the east and then heading southwest which is going to bring them into the neo-volcanic range. And so they find these areas - if that determines their direction - they are going to hit this area maybe over a 300 mile east to west line - then once they get here I suspect they search until they get the right habitat. But now let¿s think about dec 21. Dec 21 is the winter solstice. When the day is exactly 12 hrs long and 12 hrs short - night and day - now the days begin to get longer. The butterflies have settled down here, the compass clock is ticking 1 degree per day. March 21 arrives. March 21 is about the time they leave; and just as the fall equinox has told them to go due south, the spring equinox is telling them to go due north. And that is 6 months later - 180 degrees - so they are going to go in the opposite direction. Then if you follow their recolonization in the US the same - they get in - they fly due north and they start turning east - that gets them to the gulf coast, all the way to florida - they lay their eggs and die and the next generation then is turning even further east and that fits with the basic principles of breeding which are in the Great Lakes region. 59:28 so, the natural history observations over the last 70 yrs on monarchs fit this hypothesis and it can be tested experimentally. It has not been tested yet. So that would explain in general how they get their directions right - through several generations. So what we are sayiing is that this clock keeps ticking and is determined by daylight and rate of change of daylight¿so then the question of how they find this areas - I suspect they circle around and are tuned in to certain microclimatic parameters. But another hypothesis is magnetic cues - bc there is a lot of or in these mtns and they maybe - may be their compass spins when they get to the spot and that is where they settle down. 1:00:21
1:00:47 JB - what other natural phenomenon in the natural world are compared to this remarkable migration of the monarch
LB - well, the old whale migration that used to occur over thousands of miles w/all the beautiful whales and their natural behavior moving thousands of miles back and forth across the equator as an example. Early pioneers when they walked across the central valley of calif - describing wild flowers every where¿¿.in the old world there areas where bamboo plants come up every 20 yrs or so - all bloom at one time - and very familiar to people who live in the eastern US are the 17 yr cicadas. ¿those are ex of diff animals and plants that I see as marvelous phenomenons.
1:02:08 JB - is there anything comparable in the insect world?
LB - well the monarch is so extraordinary unique that it is sort of out on its own qualitatively. But there are many species of butterflies that migrate and in the panama area¿.. 1:02:56 I think another ex of this which is more subtle are the warbler migration in the spring and fall bc the warbler like the monarch can¿t tolerate the northern winter¿.1:03:33 the diff btwn the monarch and the warbler - and birds that migrate is that the monarch is 4, 5 generations removed. So they have no memory of how to get there - it has to be in their genes, where as with the birds young individuals most often fly w/the parents so they have the opportunity to learn the route 1;03;55
1¿03¿55 JB - but who is to say that if these overwintering habitats got thinner and thinner
this star of the butterfly world wouldn¿t find another area to flock during the winter. It seems like their survival mechanism is pretty good.
1:04:21 LB - I can go back to the 1870s to answer that question. Charles valentine riley is really the dean of all monarch biologists and he questioned - nobody knew at that time where monarchs came from or where they went. And they appeared just like they do today - in huge numbers in the summer. And he hypothesized eventually that they were flying somewhere in mexico - and that was - by the 1880s everybody knew they were going somewhere but nobody had a clue where. And they were very confused. Bc the eastern population migrates along the coast and there are pine trees along the ? islands along the gulf coast and they do settle down there sometimes¿..(more on this story) but again nobody knew until it was discovered in 1975 that they come down here and so the mystery went on for over a hundred yrs. So the question is if monarchs had been overwintering anywhere in the US they would have been discovered by someone - a scientist - and so - our scientific team which has been working down here since 1977¿.except for these areas they have found no major - no permanent overwintering sites 1:06:17
JB - we are starting to see some butterflies right now -
LB - well, we are right on the upper edge of the colony right now - 1:06:28 now these butterflies that we see up here nectaring ¿..these butterflies do not fly for more than a kilometer away from their colony throughout the entire winter - so therefore the radius around the colony is 1 kilometer¿butterflies burning all their sugar¿1¿08:22 the butterflies that are out here are in fact starving butterflies and they are never going to make it back to the US
JB - so the ones that are hanging out on the trees are going to make it back?
1:08:39 LB - right - those are plump healthy butterflies that are going to make it back to the US¿1:08:52 so I think the colony is just over the edge here judging from past experience - and now they are going to become more and more active as the day goes on - bc any butterflies in the colony that are exposed to sun light will warm up and then least disturbance - these clusters that are bigger around then my leg - bigger around than my body - will just explode off the bows of the fur trees and then they will fly around for a while and then they will fly around for a while and then they will settle back¿..(about maintaining their energy reserves - and body temp¿) 1:10:19 if you watch them when they are flying around it is not a power flight - it is about 1 flap and then about 3 sec and then another flap - basically if they were doing a power flap there would be at least 10 - 20 flaps.
JB - will name off some of the flowers here
1:10:46 LB - blue mint - this is a very imp flower here¿there are about 20 versions of cenesio here¿.(about the flower)¿common name of flower is cenesio (JB - that little red one ) that is another mint - labellia - and that is extremely important - butterflies don¿t go to that flower - but humming birds do¿..MORE ABOUT flowers¿..
1:12:58 JB -are these men around here are they ejiditarios? What are they doing around here?
1:13:05 LB - yes - they are guarding the colonies - these are the colony guards - they are sort of park rangers
JB - the are paid by SEMARNAP?
LB - yes. 1:13:37 so this is a super steep slope here that the butterflies are on and notice that it is a SW facing slope and they are almost always on the SW facing slope and the reason for that is you can get some insulation. Bc sunlight - if they are on the north slope - it gets so cold - they could never warm up enough to get water which they have to do periodically
1:14:01 JB - it almost looks like a moss drooping from the upper branches of the trees
LB - on a gray day it looks like just really dense spanish moss in the south - the underside of the butterfly is kind of gray colored- but when the sun come out and they open their wings you see the full brilliance of the monarch - the orange, the black and the white spots and they are just beautiful 1:14:29
1:14:35 LB - so here we are now approaching the center of this colony - and this colony right here is about 2 ½ hectares of butterflies - 2.12 hectares - we have measured it and previous indications have indicated 10 million butterflies per hectare so we are talking about 21, 22 million butterflies that are just surrounding us here.
1:14:59 JB - so we are looking at 21 or 22 million butterflies - we are looking at the population of mexico city in butterflies
LB - interesting analogy - doing far less harm to the environment than what is happening in mex city. 1;15:19 So this is the major aspect of the monarch migration biological phenomenon which is endangered phenomenon
JB - they will wake up even more?
LB - it is now 11:15¿it is a pretty cold day so what we will see is the butterflies that are directly exposed to the sun - you see not all of them are - look down there - they are totally in the shade - now those butterflies there will just be the gray blanket unless the sun hits them. But when the sun hits them, w/in a min their body temp goes from ambient which is ¿maybe 60 degrees or lower - when the sun hits them w/ina min they warm their threshold which is about 16 degree cent. - which is pretty close to¿.. and so when they are warmed up like that if anything like a bird where to land in that cluster the butterflies would just explode out - there is something called cascade - the butterflies from the top branch will drop down bc they have been disturbed and they will hit a lower one and then you will get almost a nuclear explosion of butterflies all over the place - and eventually they settle down in the clusters. That is something to see and we will probably see it today 1:17:03
JB - I have to say that when the scientist first saw this in 1975 it must have been like someone pushing through the mayan jungle and seeing one of the temples of Tikal -
LB - all descriptions of people seeing this for the first time - it was just overwhelming¿1:17:35 here is the seed crop for the whole eastern population of monarchs bred throughout this - that have all come for thousands and 1000s of miles that all come down here. 1:17:47 Bc of this this is the Achilles heel of the monarch butterfly - we are talking about the whole gener pool of the eastern population and if we don¿t give these butterflies the tender care that they need we are going to loose this from our culture and I think loosing this phenomenon from our culture is analogous to loosing lets say a whole collection of van gough paintings or whole art musuem or loosing mozart¿s music - I mean we treasure all those things and this is phenomenon that is equally to be treasured. 1:18:25 how to we get our culture to accept this kind of thinking and also to think beyond today¿s tortilla to what these forests would be tomorrow if they were simply carrying on what is happening now - there wouldn¿t be any forests left at all 1:18:45 the sun is really hitting that cluster now, but it is still pretty cool (LB talking to Alejio about the shape of the cluster¿) 1:20:35 - the normal altitude would be about 10,700 feet and we are ¿.. our current altitude is 10,300 feet - so they are maybe as much as 1000 feet lower¿so they are pushing well over 200 meters lower than they should be 1:21:27 so the problem is now that it is warmer here that it is up there¿so that they can better preserve their lipids if they are at higher levels but bc it has been so dry they have moved down¿so now they are in a bind ok - they have moved down closer to the water and humidity but it is hotter and they will be burning their lipids faster¿(more talk btwn Alejio and LB) 1:23:15 LB - homero aridijis is asking - we know from measurements of all the colonies that ¿they are down - the total number is down by almost 80% - we have had that happen in past years so they are normal fluctuations but last yr there were about 20 hectares of butterflies and this yr there are only 2 - (LB asking what contributing to that )
Alejio - it wasn¿t that drastic - (not 80%) - MORE TALK ABOUT LAST YRS STATS VERSUS THIS YRS STATS
1:25:05 LB - so the question is in Alejio¿s opinion - WHY?
Alejio - I don¿t know - the forest remains the same ¿. Maybe less butterflies were born in the north¿.(being translated by Monica)¿..MORE ON THIS¿.. (Alejio repeating LB¿s analysis
1:26:58-1:36:10 ambi of butterflies - birds in distance - with butterflies fluttering - very faint (sounds like rain) - some mic handling noise as leo adjusts mic¿¿
1:36:27 LB - [said in a soft tone] if you look up in the trees the butterflies are showing their orange wings they are in the sun sitting on the boughs of the firs and they are actually well above flight threshold - their temp has come way way up - and what will happen if a cloud comes over is the butterflies will fly up into the air and the reason for this is - if they have flown half a kilometer down stream to drink water on a sunny day the would be warm and they would fly down there and if a cloud came over what would happen is that they would make a B-line back to the colony as fast as they could get back bc if that was the beginning of a rainy period their body temperature would drop so fast they would be stranded half a kilometer - a kilometer away from here exposed to the night temp and die. So one of the super spectacular things that is related to that is the butterflies are up there on the boughs of the tree, they are at flight threshold and so they are ready to fly. And they quote think that when a cloud comes over that they have to fly back to the colony so they fly up in the air - and they realize they are in the colony and then they hover about it and they come back down again - it is very dramitic to see that happen. But it is not that they think it but it is their physiological response which has been selected by evolution and natural selection to make sure these colonies maintain their integrity. Bc here they are protected from the elements - half a mile form here if they got stranded it would be a disaster. 1;37:58¿1:38:08 it is a little too cold for them ¿but we still ..have another hour of warming and I think that you may get some explosions out here¿1:38:33 right now it is cold we have had this cold front come through and it is pretty cold today - the ambient temp is below flight threshold in the shade and so these butterflies are warming up - they are not flying around - they are not going to go out for water today at all. We will see them displaying on the branches opening their wings and resettling on the clusters, but there is not going to be mass movts today - if we were here in march there would be butterflies flying all over the place - it is like walking up a stream underwater almost as the butterflies are going down at you. Notice the butterflies on the tree trunk up here¿..(talking about butterflies getting knocked down during storms and seeing some here on an oak tree)¿1:40:28 notice that there are not butterflies in the tree tops at all. Just a few up there sunning - but the big clusters are all about 20 feet beneath the top of the trees and that is bc at night up in the treetops they are exposed to the freezing weather¿
plane flying overhead
1:41:25 -1:42:35 ambi of area - birds
1:43:00-1:44:49 ambi - ¿cranked up level¿ to get butterflies - mic positioned right under tree w/butterflies - no butterfly mostly wind -
INTERVIEW WITH HOMERO ARIDJIS (HA)
1:45:07 HA: Homero Aridjis, poet and the president of the Group of 100¿and native of Contepec (sp??), Michocan one of the places that has a sanctuary of the monarch butterflies 1:45:23
JB - ¿.1:45:36 give me some remembrances of your boyhood growing up with the butterflies
1:45:41 HA - well for us - for me - it was a fantastic yearly phenomenon. The ?? of the monarch butterflies in the hills of my village. The hill of my village is called El Altamilano (sp), and every year the boys and girls of the village would go to the hill to see the butterflies - we didn¿t know at the time that they were coming from Canada - as the Canadians and Americans - they didn¿t know they were spending the winter in Mexico. 1:46:14 I began to write about the monarch butterflies when - almost - when I was in my 20s - righting poetry. I wrote many text about the butterflies and in ¿71 I wrote also in a book about the monarch butterflies before the so-called discovery that took place in ¿76.
1:46:47 JB - but what were some of the images that you remeber - for instance in your garden and in the streets of -
HA - well you see the butterflies - the mystery of the butterflies was kept in the hill - at the top of the hill. But when - from time to time they came down to the village and they would cross the village like rivers of butterflies crossing the street and that was fantastic. And at the time we had not the problems of today - there was the colonies were very plenty - millions of butterflies¿.1:47:45 and I became an environmentalist bc of butterflies
1:47:51 JB - that is the reason you are an environmentalist? Bc of the monarchs?
1:47:53 HA - exactly yes - bc it was in the `80s every yr when I came to my village to see my parents every local mayor, business man wanted to destroy the forest to make business. And it was a continuous worry about it. and then when I found the Group of 100 in ¿85 one of my goals was to get the protection from the govt bc in protecting the butterflies I was also protecting the hill in my village. 1:48:40 and I have a personal identification with my village. It is like the memories of my childhood are there and if they take it and destroy the hill the phenomenon of the monarch butterflies disappears - also disappears memories from my childhood.
1:48:59 JB - is for you are the monarchs sort of a symbol for the natural world of mexico
1:49:08 HA - exactly, exactly - the group of 100 has been committed to the defense of the tree major migrations that take place in mexico - the gray whales, the marine turtle and the butterflies. And we have been a little successful in getting the official decrees of protection from the govt for the 3. But we have to be keeping fighting for defense - bc there are human threats every year . then the second - it is very difficult to say well, bc you have the decree to protect¿.?¿..every time there are problems you have to be alert¿
JB - do you come back every year to see the butterflies (HA - yes) - kind of a personal pilgrimage?
1:50:05 HA - exactly - I come every year and try to visit 2 or 3 sanctuaries - the one in my village¿.to see how the population - and how is the forest and how the social problems bc the demographic pressure is very big - the increase in the population has been really a threat.
1:50:32 JB - so tell me, what diff - what changes you have noticed as you have come back yr after yr
HA - well, I notice less trees and less butterflies every year. That is a pity that sometimes - the butterflies keep coming - their biological cycle is there but there are less trees. But at the same time there is more conscious among the local people about the butterflies. There are more and more people that care about the butterflies. Then I guess it is a good balance. That you can find children - person - people in the village that now know the value of the monarch butterfly phenomenon and they know they have to keep the forest. The problem is the ?? people making money with the forest - bc there are not so many people - there can be a few - but a few people logging is the forest is enough to destroy a forest. We saw - like yesterday coming into Sierra Chinqua when we stopped at the saw mill I just demand how far are you going to cutting down trees and he said until I finish the hill. Until there are no more trees that is their goal. 1;52:22
JB - and what would that mean for the monarch.
1;52:25 HA - they don¿t think about the monarch - sometimes they make the monarch a big problem. There was a moment when we got the decree - local leaders were provoking the peasants against us saying that they have to choose btwn the butterflies and their children and I said to them even the president of mexico put it this way and I say today there is not a need to confront the monarch butterflies to peasant bc the butterflies come to the forest - they have nothing to do with our human problems. If we protect a few trees doesn¿t mean they can not weigh the food from the children - onthe contrary - if you have more tourism you have more possibility to feed the children - cutting done the trees in the forest doesn¿t make you rich - but poorer bc you don¿t get the money for the trees and with time your children will be poorer w/o money - your son an exploited peasant and no forest anymore.
1:53:59 JB - So do you think that ecotourism is one of the real potentials to help the people of the region in a sustainable way?
1:53:09 HA - yes, control and organize - we have to control the tourism bc it can be a form of depravation but this is the only solution for the peasants here - that they can¿t handle the ecotourism - getting the money from the tourists and see that it is imp to keep the forest
1:54;35 JB - is this one of the biggest environmental issues - I guess I could call it a battle - in mexico
1:54:46 HA - yes, yes bc it is the environmental problem of 3 countries - canada, the US and mexico and sometimes also means the failure (?) of 3 countries to protect a national phenomenon like the monarch migration to mexico. The incapacity - also the monarch butterflies needs the protection from canada - from the US and mexico all together and if we can find economic resources and political will we can save the forest - we can save the monarch butterfly.
1:55:41 JB - does the mexican govt have the political will to protect this forest?
1:55;46 HA - it is very difficult - I do not see it. many times I present the govt w/projects with solutions and they hear and they do not move. Bc like with the ministry of SEMARNAP you have in same ministry the interest of the environmentalists and at the same time you have the forestry interest. It happen to when we got the decree on oct 9, 1986 we were very happy but 5 days later...
stop to record ambi
1:56:32 ambi of butterflies - not very strong¿. 1:57:36 stronger fluttering sound
2:00:04 end of DAT