Getty Images | Enrique Castro

California Monarch Butterfly Population Plummets By 86 Percent In One Year

An unfortunate side effect of human existence is the fact that our actions have some sad consequences. One of these is the fact that our actions can devastate the animals that we share the planet with. It's happened before and it seems that it will continue happening. The latest victim? The beautiful monarch butterfly.

We already knew that monarchs were in trouble.

Unsplash | David Clode

A 2017 study found that Western Monarch populations had dropped by an astounding 97 percent over the past 35 years. To put this into numbers, the researchers found that populations had dropped from about one billion back in 1996 to just 100 million in 2016.

It's a tough existence for butterflies.

Unsplash | Lukasz Szmigiel

As migratory insects, they rely on several habitats. For instance, many monarch populations tend to spend their winters in pine groves along the California coast. But over time, urban development has encroached on these areas. Complicating matters is the widespread use of pesticides that can destroy plants the monarchs depend on.

The latest data is bleak.

An environmental nonprofit, the Xerces Society, published their annual count of monarch butterflies. In November of 2017, an estimated 148,000 monarch butterflies spent their winters on the west coast. In November 2018, just a year later, numbers had dropped to 20,456. It's a shocking decline.

That's an 86 percent drop in just a year.

As pollinators, monarch butterflies are integral to helping certain species of plants thrive. Considering they could be facing regional extinction in some areas, a number of conservation efforts are underway to encourage the survival of pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Monarchs are just one threatened species on a long list.

Wikipedia | Rüdiger Stehn

The stunning Spix's macaw, or blue macaw, a tropical bird featured in cartoon form in the movie Rio, had been critically endangered for years. In 2018, it was announced that numbers had dwindled to the point where the species may be extinct in the wild.

It was just one of eight bird species declared extinct.

Wikipedia | Paul E. Baker

Global conservation partnership BirdLife International says that, along with the blue macaw, other birds such as the poo-uli, cryptic treehunter and Pernambuco pygmy owl are officially extinct.

2018 was a bad year for extinctions.

Unsplash | Simon Greenwood

A wide range of animals, from birds to sea creatures to large land mammals, has gone extinct in recent years. A mind-blowing statistic from the World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of vertebrates (that's animals with a backbone) have gone extinct since 1970.

It's a tough pill to swallow.

Getty Images | Enrique Castro

While recent trends haven't given us much good news in terms of conservation efforts, there are always people and organizations working to preserve animal populations. Let's hope that humanity can look at what's happened — and pledge to do better in the future.

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