The once-wild Western Monarch Butterfly has made a stunning comeback from the brink of extinction. More than 150,000 butterflies have returned to bloom near the Monterey Bay Research Reserve in California in the last two years. The tiny creatures huddle together in leafy summer patches in the area, attracting travelers to ride along a 9-mile trail to see them at night.
The butterfly population is still much lower than it was 20 years ago, when it was estimated to be between a million and 10 million adults and 300,000 eggs each summer. Since that time, researchers have worked on the “Western Monarch DNA” project, collecting tissues and extracting DNA from more than 4,000 monarch butterflies, which showed an almost complete reversal of the pattern of the butterfly’s genetic lineage to spawn successive generations.
Monarch butterflies have been protected since 1937 under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The recovery of the butterflies is one of the country’s most impressive nature tales.