Zoo hosts talk on saving imperiled monarch butterflies

March 17, 2021 - 9:25am

Q&A with Sen. Jeff Merkley and Xerces Society expert will be livestreamed March 18

As pollinator scientists and advocates fight to save the western monarch butterfly from extinction, the Oregon Zoo is hosting a live Q&A session this week, featuring U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and pollinator expert Sarina Jepsen from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The discussion, moderated by Oregon Zoo general curator Bob Lee, will be livestreamed on Thursday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m. PDT on the Oregon Zoo, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Xerces Society Facebook pages. The conversation will explore the threats faced by the western monarch butterfly, and how we can save this iconic pollinator.

Sen. Merkley, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service, has introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect habitats for monarchs and the other pollinators, which our farmers, agriculture industry and food supply depend on.

Jepsen, who directs the Endangered Species Program at the Xerces Society, has worked to protect and recover endangered pollinators since 2006. She oversees several community science projects, including the annual Thanksgiving Count, which has highlighted a 99.9% decline in migratory western monarchs. Data from this count has been used by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to evaluate the species' risk of extinction.

The Q&A will also offer a peek inside the zoo's butterfly conservation lab. At the lab, keepers adhere to meticulous year-round timetables for waking, releasing, breeding and feeding imperiled Taylor's checkerspot and Oregon silverspot butterflies, which develop according to different schedules. The level of care is crucial: the Taylor's checkerspot is an endangered species, and the Oregon silverspot is listed as threatened by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is also working to save endangered California condors, western pond turtles and northern leopard frogs.

Support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation enhances and expands the zoo's efforts in conservation, education and animal welfare. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/donate.