Montreal conservationists work hard to save the disappearing monarch butterfly from extinction

Montreal conservationists work hard to save the disappearing monarch butterfly from extinction


At his home on the south bank of Montreal, Roger Giraldeau goes to his nursery.

Opening the door, he carefully raised a mason jar full of water. A bunch of milkweed leaves protruded from a hole in the metal cover.

“These are my children,” he said, pointing to the black, yellow and white caterpillars clinging to the leaves.

Those caterpillars are about half metamorphosed. From eggs to caterpillars to pupae, they will then form their final form: the monarch butterfly.

But if it weren’t for him, the more than 100 caterpillars in Giraldo’s nursery would not be here.

He searches for and saves eggs so that the plants where they are located are not pruned for landscaping along highways or shopping mall land.

“People always ask me, what’s the use of butterflies? I always ask them the other way around, what’s the use of humans? We destroy everything,” he said.

“I try to help those who have no chance to survive.”

It is becoming more and more difficult to survive for the monarch butterfly.

Scientists believe that the number of butterflies has decreased by 80% since the 1980s.

Roger Giraldeau established a Monarch nursery in his backyard, where he feeds and nurtures eggs that develop through metamorphosis. (Sarah Levitt/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Track the declining population of monarchs

At the Montreal Botanical Garden, Alessandro Dieni kneels on an imported milkweed called Asclepias curassavica or tropical milkweed.

“[The Monarchs] Coming all the way from Mexico, just to feed and complete their life cycle-and they can only do this if they have milkweed,” said the coordinator of the Monarch Mission at the Botanical Garden.

“This is the only plant that caterpillars can eat.”

This is also where the butterflies lay their eggs.

This week, amateurs and experts from North and South America participated in the International Monarch Monitoring Blitz.

After the participants found milkweed plants, eggs or any form of butterflies, they only needed to enter their observations online.

“The purpose of this blitz is to collect better pictures and better understand what is happening in Canada,” Dieni said.

What is going on is not good news. It is not simple to find out the reasons behind the decline, but in Canada, part of the reason is the loss of habitat: precious milkweed plants.

Alessandro Dieni is the coordinator of Mission Monarch at the Montreal Botanical Garden, where experts and amateurs monitor the monarch butterflies they find. (Sarah Levitt/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Monarchy in Montreal

You don’t have to go very far to find an emperor’s habitat on the verge of disappearing.

At the western end of Montreal, next to Trudeau International Airport, there is a large piece of land that many people call the Montreal Tech Park, although the 200 hectares of woods and fields have no official name.

A milkweed in Technoparc Montréal. (Sarah Levitt/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

“We have everything here. We have wetlands, we have mixed forests, we have swamp forests, we have this open space, which is very suitable for all kinds of species that hunt and forage here, including monarch butterflies,” said Catherine Colin. An amateur birdwatcher and member of TechnoParc Oiseaux, the organization fights to protect the land.

Through the forest, in the fields, there are thousands of milkweed plants, which are a haven for the monarchs who come in summer.

Most of the land is owned by the federal government, but leased to the airport management agency, Montreal Airport (ADM).

This is the land they hope to develop.

ADM spokesperson Anne-Sophie Hamel confirmed to Radio Canada: “We are indeed negotiating with a company that wants to be established in the northern part of the airport site.”

For the members of TechnoParc Oiseaux, they cannot understand why there is no willingness to protect butterflies.

“I will not present a situation where the loss of habitat in Montreal is as serious as the loss of habitat in Mexico’s migration destination,” Colin said.

“But this is still a serious threat because of the loss of urban habitat we are seeing. If we are to eliminate milkweed, then the monarch butterflies will have no place to breed and restart their trajectory. So, yes, this It is a serious threat.”

Katherine Collin of TechnoParc Oiseaux visits this park five days a week. (Sarah Levitt/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

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