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The population of monarch butterflies in California has declined dramatically in recent decades. In the 1980s, there were around 4.5 million monarch butterflies in the state. In a census carried out by the nature conservation organization Xerces Society in 2020, there were only 2,000 left.
But last year's count of monarch butterflies gave researchers an unexpected and positive surprise. In 2021, 247,237 monarch butterflies could be counted.
The researchers are not entirely sure what the increase could be attributed to. This may be because the fires in California have made the lands better for monarch butterflies as the vegetation picks up again. It could also be that more butterflies are flying in from other states than before, but the researchers aren't really satisfied with any of the explanations.
As the population fluctuates so sharply from one year to another, more research is needed before any far-reaching conclusions can be drawn. But researchers still see the result as a sign that the monarch butterfly can be saved.
"Now we have a golden opportunity to expand our measures to preserve the monarch butterfly. Taking advantage of this rise may be our best chance to help the monarch butterfly and other endangered butterflies", said Isis Howard of the Xerces Society in a press release.