Monarch butterfly 'Protector' found dead in Ocampo Michoacan
He was protecting the monarch butterfly from Mexico's illegal loggers. Now, he's dead
National Post Staff , Reuters
2 hrs ago
a person standing posing for the camera: Leading Mexican conservationist Homero Gómez González has been found dead.
He was tasked with taking care of Mexico’s vulnerable monarch butterfly population, but in the end he was the one in grave danger.
Leading conservationist Homero Gómez González, 50, was found dead Wednesday, various outlets report, left floating in a rainwater tank in Ocampo in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
His presumed crime? Protecting the migrating butterflies from local industries whose activities threatened their habitat, such as illegal logging.
Michoacan state is home to many rival drug gangs who battle to control smuggling routes through often-arid terrain to the Pacific and the interior of the country. But its hills are also home to migrating monarchs. Millions of monarchs make a 3,220-kilometre journey from Canada to winter in central Mexico’s warmer weather each October, but the insects are facing new challenges linked to extreme weather and changing habitat.
Gomez, though himself from a logging family, had fought to protect the species in a local conservation area which is under threat from the trade in illegal timber.
En el Santuario El Rosario Ocampo Michoacan “ El más grande del mundo “ pic.twitter.com/WlCJuOcG4Q
— Homero gomez g. (@Homerogomez_g)
Urging the protection of the habitat — the El Rosario sanctuary in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve — he became best known among Mexicans for posting mesmerizing videos and photos of the orange and black butterflies on social media. The site, a big draw for tourists, is a UNESCO World Heritage area.
This exposure, it is feared, may have drawn the ire of illegal logging interests who had grown tired of his activism.
The Human Rights State Commission of Michoacan reported his disappearance on Jan. 13 and commission official Mayte Cardona told Reuters that “he was probably hurting the interests of people illegally logging in the area.”
Michoacan’s attorney general has now confirmed Gomez’s death. One source at the state attorney’s office, who declined to be named, told Reuters the cause had not been determined but that an initial review had found no signs of torture.
Gran espectáculo en el Santuario El Rosario Ocampo Michoacan pic.twitter.com/yIlMVM6Bgl
— Homero gomez g. (@Homerogomez_g) January 11, 2020
Last month, González told the Washington Post about the everyday challenges he faced.
“It’s been a fight to maintain it,” he told the Post. “And it hasn’t been easy.”
He told the Post he grew up in a logging family, but had realized that conservation was his calling.
“We were afraid that if we had to stop logging, it would send us all into poverty,” he said, adding that he later saw that the monarchs needed to be protected, and found that their beauty could be a tourist draw.
As well as its drug and logging conflicts, in recent years Michoacan has been the centre of increasingly violent war over the local avocado trade , as cartels muscle in on an industry worth hundreds of millions each year.