Monarch butterflies are dying off fast, with 90% gone in the last 20 years, and they urgently need endangered species protection, a coalition of environmental and health groups said on Tuesday.
The cause of their decline is the rapid loss of milkweed, the plant on which they feed and breed, largely due to due to herbicide spraying on genetically engineered corn and soybeans on Midwestern US farmland, they said in a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
Parasites, climate change and loss of natural habitat areas are also leading factors in the plummeting numbers of the black and orange butterflies.
“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, monarch researcher and conservationist.
Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States, as well as some parts of Canada and Mexico.
The petition said that in the past two decades, they have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — and that includes nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.
“Listing will make it illegal to intentionally kill monarchs or modify their habitat without a permit,” said a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety.
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SOURCE: Business World