IUCN 2022 Red List Update: Migratory monarch butterfly now Endangered - IUCN Red List

The migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), known for its spectacular annual journey of up to 4,000 kilometres across the Americas, has entered the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM as Endangered, threatened by habitat destruction and climate change. All surviving sturgeon species – also migratory, found across the northern hemisphere – are now at risk of extinction due to dams and poaching, pushing the world’s most Critically Endangered group of animals yet closer to the brink. The tiger (Panthera tigris) has been reassessed, revealing new population figures.

The IUCN Red List now includes 147,517 species, of which 41,459 are threatened with extinction.

two butterflies on frothy purple flowers, the butterflies are mainly orange with vivid black veins on the wings and black spotted with white wing borders
monarch butterflies

“Today’s (21/07/22) Red List update highlights the fragility of nature’s wonders, such as the unique spectacle of monarch butterflies migrating across thousands of kilometres,” said Dr Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General. “To preserve the rich diversity of nature we need effective, fairly governed protected and conserved areas, alongside decisive action to tackle climate change and restore ecosystems. In turn, conserving biodiversity supports communities by providing essential services such as food, water and sustainable jobs.”

Climate change has significantly impacted the migratory monarch butterfly and is a fast-growing threat; drought limits the growth of milkweed and increases the frequency of catastrophic wildfires, temperature extremes trigger earlier migrations before milkweed is available, while severe weather has killed millions of butterflies.

The western population is at greatest risk of extinction, having declined by an estimated 99.9%, from as many as 10 million to 1,914 butterflies between the 1980s and 2021. The larger eastern population also shrunk by 84% from 1996 to 2014. Concern remains as to whether enough butterflies survive to maintain the populations and prevent extinction.

“It is tragic to see one of the world’s most well-known butterfly species, with remarkable migratory behaviours and local cultural significance, threatened with extinction. Assessments like these provide us with the foundations for conservation actions to try and help protect a species and avert further loss,” said Sophie Ledger, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) Indicators & Assessments Unit researcher and member of the IUCN SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group. “Here at ZSL, we are collaborating with global experts to shed light on the status of a wide range of species, including butterflies. Considering the current global biodiversity crisis, it is critical to uncover what is happening with diverse and functionally important species such as these before it’s too late.”

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Posted On: 22/07/2022

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