Tour guide for a renowned butterfly sanctuary Raúl Hernández and reserve manager Homero Gómez González were found murdered near the town of Angangueo. Authorities are still investigating whether their deaths were linked, and whether there were motives related to illegal logging efforts near the butterfly reserve or local gang activity.
The deaths of the two conservationists come at a time when Western Monarch butterflies are also disappearing at an alarming rate, with annual numbers counted by the Xerces Society declining dramatically over the last two decades. At a count of over one million in 1997, the Xerces Society Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count reported only 29,418 at the end of 2019.
Experts point to the loss of habitat as the leading source for butterfly population declines, with human agriculture, deforestation and housing being some of the largest factors.
The Eastern Monarch butterfly populations, however, have been increasing in recent years, seeing a 144 percent increase from 2018 to 2019 according to The Monarch Joint Venture.