Monterrey, Mexico. – When Rocio Trevino Ulloa came to live in Saltillo in late 1978, leaving his native Chihuahua, he found giant orange and black butterflies that would fly in the fall and die if caught by children in hunting game Was. ,
I didn’t know it was the emperor on a migration flight into the jungles of Michoacán.
“I didn’t know about monarchs because they don’t happen in Chihuahuas,” says 71-year-old Rocio.
The monarch butterfly is today an internationally protected species because of its population decline in recent decades due to deforestation, habitat loss and climate change.
At that time there was almost no information. It was known that he was on a sojourn trip, but the details were unknown. The first winter colony refuge in Mexico was discovered in 1975.
Without knowing that it was such an important insect, Rocio launched an investigation together with her husband, Julio Carrera López, who died in 2013, in charge of Profauna, an organization created to promote environmental protection.
Read more: They fuel massive deforestation for the Monarch Reserve
“I came to know slowly,” Rossio says.
It flourished in 1990 when he formalized the Royal Mail Program, an environmental education initiative related to profauna, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and which seeks to map the monarch’s route and promote its conservation. was a leader in
When typing ‘monarch butterfly’ into an Internet search engine, one of the main results that appears will be a map with arrows indicating the migratory route that this insect follows every fall from Canada and the United States to Michoacan .
Its trajectory can be traced, in large part, to the work of Corio Real.
“In the 1990s, it was already known that the butterfly had arrived in Mexico, specifically Michoacán and the state of Mexico, and they spent the winter there,” says Jerónimo Chávez Cisneros, project manager at Corio Real and right-hand man of Rocío. Huh. ,
“But its importance was not known in detail, nor did many people living on the route believe that this passing butterfly reaches these states. The Royal Mail has achieved this.”
The journey began when Susanna Mendoza, a member of Profauna, had an idea about starting a Monarch protection program.
“The name Royal Mail came about for a colleague who’s already dead,” Rocio says.
“She was the one who said why we didn’t contact each other by letters, because the butterfly had come to Acua (Coahuila) and we should tell each other.”
In addition to knowing where the butterfly flew in Mexico, they wanted people to know about it and be interested in caring for it.
He also sent 100 letters of invitation to associations and people working on conservation issues and schools because he wanted children to join. Only 22 answered and began to do so with them.
“Teachers informed by telephone, telegram and letter where the butterflies were going, and we informed everyone else so that they would be attentive to the arrival of butterflies in their cities,” Roccio says.
The program spread. Two years later, Monterrey became one of the cities with the most participation.
In 2000 he decided to migrate from letters to email and over time, he started receiving reports through social networks and WhatsApp as well.
“As the years went by and the participants grew, it was important to see where the butterfly was going,” says Rossio.
By that time, there were already more organizations and specialists following the trail of these Lepidoptera.
In 2016, Correo Real received support from the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature to settle its records, which were later joined by other bases and together, the route was established with greater accuracy.
Today it is known that it first appears in Coahuila in municipalities such as Acua, Artega, Cuatro Cienegas, Monclova and Saltillo; Then it flies through Nuevo León, passing mainly through García, Santa Catarina, San Nicolas and Monterey.
It also crosses the cities of Guanajuato, Queretaro, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.
“I provided about 14,000 of the data,” Rocio says.
“We weren’t terribly wrong about where it happened: and we still know, as time goes on.”
It’s impossible to forget the time Jeronimo entered Monarch Reserve in 2019. “Having a million butterflies fluttering is a feeling that makes you say: ‘Wow!, if God exists for me, he is present at that time'” recalls the Royal Biologist, 33.
The first time he became fond of fluttering butterflies was around 2013 at the Chipink Ecological Park, where he worked. It was also there that she met Rossio, who invited her to join him in 2016.
Two years ago, the Corio Real was designated an affiliate of the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas, due to the fact that the lowest number of hectares occupied by a butterfly was discovered in Michoacán.
Jeronimo tells of his encounter with Rossio.
“She started telling me that she was already in poor health, that she was already grown up, that she needed the support of someone who was with her,” says the biologist, who teamed up in Saltillo. went to work.
He returned to Monterrey in 2021 as he missed Monterrey. His current job is to establish liaison between Royal Mail and Profauna.
“I hope the work helps achieve the conservation of the monarch butterfly. In 10, 20, 30, 50 years, even more, we will continue to see them,” he says.
“I think losing the Monarch’s migration will lose precisely the power that the migratory phenomenon connects us to nature.”
Activity begins in September. This is when the first butterflies start arriving in the Acuna and from that moment on, Rocio’s phone doesn’t stop ringing. Those who cooperate know that Correo Real is ready to receive their report.
“Report in Ciudad Acua, Coahuila today at 8:15 am,” a message in the WhatsApp group said. Butterfly feeding on lilacs, which is one of the means of obtaining reports of migrations of monarchs today.
Every year they invite the population to send their watchdogs and ask that each report meet certain characteristics such as date, location and viewing time. If possible the number, coordinates of butterflies, if they were in flight, resting or feeding, on which plant or tree. Also, if the caterpillar was seen or if the insect was mating.
“All the reports that come in on WhatsApp, Rossio and I copy and paste them into Word,” explains Jeronimo.
During the diaspora season, a weekly bulletin is published with updates on the Emperor’s progress. When the season ends and reports stop coming in, they begin with the data blanking out and a final report is published.
They also provide training workshops for teachers, environmental educators, government personnel, and the community in general with the Monarch for environmental education activities and how to do citizen science.
Today the program receives reports from various states where the emperor travels. Experts, students and enthusiasts participate. Communication takes place by email, social networks and a WhatsApp group consisting of 250 citizens.
“When I went to the schools, the teachers asked the children: ‘Who’s here?'” Roccio recalled of the many visits she made to basic education schools to give environmental education workshops.
“He said: ‘A nanny!'”
This is how she earned the nickname by which many know her today: Grandmother Emperor.
Mother of three children, grandmother of seven grandchildren and great-grandmother of one girl, Rossio enjoys working with children, another important function of the Royal Mail programme.
Who shares what she enjoys working with children is Isabel Ortiz Soto, who is in charge of bringing the community closer to the monarch.
“I got into the Royal Mail through my mom,” remembers this 45-year-old royal. Her mother took a workshop with Rossio in 2013 and passed on to Isabel her passion for emperors, which she knew nothing about.
On a voluntary basis, Isabel carried out environmental activities in schools until 2018 when Rossio invited her to join the team. Part of her work is in elementary schools, where she collaborates with students to create gardens and gardens.
It is also in charge of the “My Municipality with the Monarch” program, where they invite governments to take action for this species.
A mother of three daughters aged 17, 14 and 12, she loves working with children because she knows they are the future and she is always amazed at how much they know.
He remembers a workshop given to him on flowers. A girl gave him a picture.
“He shows me a little monkey and puts me up with a mask, and a butterfly and a flower, and says to me: ‘Look, it’s you.’ These are details you might not expect.”
Today the Royal Mail team consists of seven men, with Rossio and Jeronimo at their heads.
His record on the Monarch Route reaches 20 thousand.
There is a lot of information that still needs to be studied. They are working on a scientific article which they hope to publish soon.
Although with difficulty walking, Rocio continues to work nonstop. She can’t even think of leaving him.
“The King program has been the reason for my life, it still has me standing here, sitting at the computer, already with a bionic hip so much from sitting, but it’s been so important to me.”
“Another reason to feel like I’m doing something in this world. If not, what would I do? Knit and watch television? Well, no. That’s what I like to do. Here I forget everything ; my pains and my ailments. This is my life.”
For how long will he follow her?, he is asked.
“By the time I’m barely here at the desk, there’s nothing more.” Smell and my ailments. It’s my Life”.
For how long will he follow her?, he is asked.
“By the time I’m barely here at the desk, there’s nothing more.”
Read more: Monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Michoacani flooded