Butterfly conservationist disappears in Mexico

The State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) in Mexico’s west-central state of Michoacán is exhorting authorities to intensify their search for a campesino ecologist and advocate for protection of the world-famous monarch butterfly habitat, who has “disappeared.” Homero GĂłmez González went missing Jan. 13, one day after he posted a video of himself on Twitter standing amid a swarm of butterflies at their wintering grounds in the Michoacán highlands, hailing it as a “patrimony of humanity.” He has long served as administrator of Ejido El Rosario, an agrarian community of the Mazahua indigenous people in Ocampo municipality, which overlaps with El Campanario Sanctuary, part of the UNESCO-recognized Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve. The Michoacán prosecutor’s office, the FiscalĂ­a General, announced Jan. 20 that 53 police officers from the municipalities of Ocampo and Angangueo have been detained in relation to the disappearance. Family members say GĂłmez González told authorities that he had received threats from local organized crime networks.

Narco gangs in Michoacán broadly overlap with local mafias that illegally exploit timber on protected lands, and have co-opted the state’s avocado industry to launder illicit proceeds and maintain a legal cover for land-grabs, leading to warnings of “blood avocados.” (La Jornada, Jan. 21; La Voz de Michoacán, Jan. 15, LAT, Nov. 20)

Mexican authorities say that over 60,000 have “disappeared” in the context of Mexico’s drug war over the past two generations.

Photo: La Voz de Michoacán

  1. Body of missing ecologist found in Michoacán

    The lifeless body of missing environmental activist Homero Gómez was found in a well in El Soldado community, Ocampo municipality, Michoacán state judicial authorities announced Jan. 30. There was no sign of violence to the body, so he was presumably thrown down the well alive. (BBC News, El Heraldo de Mexico)

  2. Second monarch butterfly sanctuary worker slain in Mexico

    A second worker at Mexico’s famed monarch butterfly sanctuary has been found murdered, sparking concerns that the defenders of one of the country’s most emblematic species are being slain with impunity. The body of RaĂşl Hernández Romero, a part-time tour guide, was found on Feb. 1, showing injuries apparently inflicted by a sharp object. Hernández had been reported missing on Jan. 27 in the town of Angangueo, in the heart of the federally protected Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. (EIJ)

  3. Monarch butterfly makes IUCN ‘Endangered’ list

    The migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), known for its spectacular annual journey of up to 4,000 kilometers across the Americas, has entered the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “Endangered,” due to habitat destruction and climate change. The numbers of Western monarchs, which live west of the Rocky Mountains, plummeted by an estimated 99.9% between the 1980s and 2021. Eastern monarchs, which make up most of the population in North America, dropped by 84% from 1996 to 2014. The new designation of “endangered” covers both populations. (IUCN, NYT)