Monarch Butterflies Thrive Despite Mexico’s Drug Violence, Tourists Avoid Butterfly Preserves

Reports out of Mexico suggest tourism at the Monarch butterfly preserves in Michoacan province has plummeted 60 percent even though the Monarch population is “millions more than in years past.”

This is what you're missing: Monarch butterflies take flight in Michoacan ---photo courtesy of

The reason?  Mexican drug violence.

Tourism at the El Rosario preserve is down substantially, Ismael González Rivera, commisioner of the sanctuary told reporters for the website   The decline hurts the local people who in recent years have built a sustainable ecotourism economy that is heavily dependent on foreign nature lovers flying to Mexico and often driving for hours to Michoacan by bus or car.

“The few people who have visited have been very content, enjoying the spectacle,” González Rivera said.

It’s no surprise that butterfly lovers are hesitant to visit Mexico. Just this week, the BBC covered President Felipe Calderon’s announcement of a drug cartel death database.  Since 2006, almost 35,000 people have been murdered in the violence.  President Calderon labeled 2010, “a year of extreme violence” with 15,273 drug-related deaths.

Closer to home, Monarch Watch issued a stern travel advisory to their 4,800+  Facebook fans.  The December 20th post urged butterfly lovers to avoid rental cars and tour the preserves only with registered guides. “While most of the violence involves cartel members attacking each other and fighting with federal troops, a number of students and visitors to northern Mexico have been killed,” the advisory warned.  “Driving into Mexico is no longer safe and should not be attempted.”

How sad and ironic that following the dreadful 2009 season, the growth of the Monarch butterfly population seems to have increased in proportion to the body count of drug violence victims.

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4 Responses to Monarch Butterflies Thrive Despite Mexico’s Drug Violence, Tourists Avoid Butterfly Preserves

  1. Mr. Neil says:

    Frankly, the media has whipped this into a frenzy.

    Michoacan is nowhere near the troubles of the North, and even there the vast majority of tourists would be so far removed from any semblance of issues as to be comical.

    Yes, travel wisely: but I would not let paranoia stop you from going this year. It’s magical.

    • Monika Maeckle says:

      Hey there Mr. Neil,
      I was in Angangueo two years ago, but it snowed and the butterflies weren’t moving. That’s why I really wanted to see them this year, timing my trip to a sunnier day. There’s still a chance we’ll make it down there. Thanks for pushing Mardi to make the trip so we could get a sense of it in this rebound year.

  2. Pingback: NPR: Cartel Violence Keeps Tourists from Monarch Butterfly Roosting Spot | texasbutterflyranch

  3. Pingback: NPR: Mexican Drug Cartels Keep Tourists from “Milliones de Monarcas” | Butterfly Beat | a blog

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