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Mexico's president reveals plan to save butterflies
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16:48, November 26, 2007

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Mexico President Felipe Calderon on Sunday announced a 4.6 million U.S. dollar plan to curb logging and protect millions of monarch butterflies that migrate the country's central mountains each winter, blanketing trees and bushes and luring visitors from around the world.

The plan will be used to purchase additional equipment and advertising for the existing Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, covering a 124,000-acre swathe of trees and mountains that for thousands of years has served as the winter nesting ground to millions of orange- and black-winged monarch butterflies.

Calderon said it would help boost tourism and support the economy in an impoverished area where illegal logging is out of control.

"It is possible to take care of the environment and at the same time promote development," the president said.

The new initiative is part of ongoing efforts to protect the butterflies, which are a huge tourist attraction and the pride of Mexico. In some areas, officials can even be found standing guard along highways and slowing cars that might accidentally hit a butterfly flying across the road.

While the monarch butterfly does not appear on any endangered species lists, experts say illegal logging in Mexico threatens its existence in North America because it removes the foliage that protects the delicate insects from the cold and rain.

Each September, the butterflies begin their 3,400-mile journey from the forests of eastern Canada and parts of the United States to the central Mexican mountains. The voyage is considered an aesthetic and scientific wonder.

The butterflies return to the U.S. and Canada in late March, where they breed and cycle through up to five generations before heading back south. Scientists say they are genetically programmed to return to Mexico, where they settle into the same mountains their ancestors inhabited the year before.


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