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Monarch butterfly

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

The monarch butterfly is easily identified by its striped orange-and-black colouring, which warns predators that it's dangerous to eat. But its most distinctive feature is probably the mass migration it undertakes.

Every year, millions of monarchs migrate from eastern Canada to the forests of central Mexico where they overwinter. However, their numbers have been dwindling rapidly, with populations declining 90% over the past two decades due to habitat loss.

In 1996-97, orange monarchs blanketed around 45 acres (18.19 hectares) of Mexican forest, whereas in 2013-14 they covered just 1.66 acres (0.67 hectares).

Monarch numbers rose slightly in 2014-15 and again in 2015-16, to cover 9.9 acres (4.01 hectares) of forest, but conservationists warn it's not enough to bring them back from the brink of extinction yet.

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  • Title: Monarch butterfly

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