|2008||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|
|2008||Advisory Body overruled||By IUCN (later overruled by Committee): integrity issues|Paul Tanner (UK):
We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Monarch Butterfly forests will be inscribed this year – not just because it will add to our “visited list” but also because it is clearly such a world class natural site! What can stop it? Well, IUCN often seems more concerned with “process” than the inherent value of a site so perhaps the buffer zones haven’t been adequately defined or else the management plan isn’t thick enough!
Actually, when we were there in Mar 2008, we felt that the Mexicans were doing quite a good job at balancing the “needs” of the butterflies with those of the large crowds who had come to see them. Down below at the bus station and car park and for some of the pathway up there was a carnival atmosphere – Mariachi bands and all sorts of Mexican food goodies. One got the feeling that a spring trip to see the butterflies was a traditional “good day out” for many and indeed some of the “oldies” looked as if they may have been doing the trip annually for many years – despite the steep climb (allow up to an hour given the crowds on the path)!.
As you approach the butterfly area, the ground becomes covered with the bodies of dead insects – one of the amazing aspects of this site is the way it brings home the sheer profligacy of nature. But there is a reasonable number of wardens to rope off the path and to guide tourists to the remarkably few trees where the millions (billions, trillions??) of the insects are gathered together for warmth. Their weight is such that the branches on which they settle are visibly sagging. Visitors are kept back from these trees but the views are perfectly adequate. Most only stay half an hour or so but there is a steady stream and usually a hundred or so people at each of the 2 main “tree areas” at any one time. Given the number of children who have come, a reasonable quietness is maintained. People are clearly entranced by the magic and mystery of this natural phenomenon.
We were there on a partly cloudy day but, every 5 minutes or so as a cloud moved away from the sun and the warmth filtered through the trees, countless butterflies would leave their branches and flutter up into the air filling it with their orange and black. So many wings were beating that you might feel that you could actually hear them - the Web site i refer to below describes it as "the whisper of thousands of voices". In its way this sight was as memorable as other great natural gatherings around the world such as the Wildebeest crossing the Mara or the massed King Penguin colonies on S Georgia.
There are a number of different destinations where the butterflies might be seen. We went to El Rosario – this is the most “famous” and we were more than happy with what we saw. We were self driving and the road is a bit bumpy and pot holed for the last 15kms up from Ocampo (we approached from Zitacuaro which is on the direct route from Mexico DF) but perfectly passable by saloon car with care – the locals do exact a toll of M$35 for use of the road (only collected in 1 direction). The entrance fee to the park was M$35pp. Allow around 3 hours from arrival to depart – the “Mexican atmosphere” of the crowds enjoying themselves is worth picking up on. There is a Park Information Centre but this was not USA and it was clearly lacking investment – a movie was showing (in Spanish only) but you are better advised to move on and see the real thing! You can find out more at this excellent WWF Website
Date posted: June 2008
Have you been to Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve? Share your experiences!