Even though the number of monarch butterflies that reached their wintering grounds in Mexico decreased by more than half this season, experts said the plunge is not alarming.
The Mexico director of the World Wildlife Fund told reporters that the previous winter’s numbers were unusually high because the first generation of the migrating insects in the spring of 2018 had encountered favorable breeding conditions as they headed northward toward the eastern U.S. and Canada.
But those fluttering northward in 2019 encountered colder conditions in Texas, which made them less able to reproduce.
Early reports from Texas this spring say the monarchs have arrived at least three weeks earlier than expected, thanks to unseasonably warm weather in Mexico.
A refuge that is home to many of East Africa’s mountain gorillas has been closed to protect the endangered primates from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Officials at Congo’s Virunga National Park say they will bar visitors until at least June 1 after experts warned that the gorillas are likely susceptible to complications from the coronavirus.
Similar actions have been taken in neighboring Rwanda to protect that country’s gorillas and chimpanzees.
Australian scientists believe they know why the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are leaving the reserve to raid nearby eucalyptus plantations, causing conflict with the human population.
It had been thought that the gorillas made the regular forays into the nearby farms only because the plants there were richer in protein and more digestible than what is available in the park.
But researchers from the University of Western Australia found that the eucalyptus bark is rich in salt, which the gorillas crave and will go out of their way to get.
The population of Africa’s critically endangered mountain gorillas has soared by a quarter since 2010, with wildlife authorities estimating the number now to be over 1,000 individual primates.
The population boom came despite the threat of poaching and armed groups vying for control on the chain of volcanic mountains that are home to the gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The population increase came after the introduction of park guards, veterinary care, community support projects and regulated tourism around the gorillas’ habitats.
World’s Largest Gorilla Species at Risk of Extinction
The population of the world’s largest ape has collapsed over the last two decades. Fewer than 4,000 Grauer’s gorillas remain in the wild, and now conservationists warn that the animals are at risk of extinction.
Officials from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced Sunday (Sept. 4) that they’re raising the threatened status of the Grauer’s gorilla from “endangered” to “critically endangered,” the highest category before extinction.
Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) are a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. They are found in fragmented forest habitats in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they mainly subsist on fruit and other plants and can grow up to 5.5 feet (168 cm) tall and weigh up to 440 lbs. (200 kg).
Earlier this year, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Fauna and Flora International released a report documenting a77-percent drop in the number of Grauer’s gorillas over the span of a single generation, from an estimated 17,000 individuals in 1995 to 3,800 today.
The authors of the report pointed to bushmeat hunting and civil war in the DRC as major drivers of the population collapse and recommended that the species be listed as critically endangered.