The Monarch butterfly population has taken a beating in recent years, with massive losses reported in many areas but especially along the California coast heading down into Mexico.
The butterflies typically migrate along the west coast down through the Golden State and cross the border into Mexico, as they search for food and a suitable climate.
But the environment in these areas has not been kind to monarchs, culminating in a sobering 2018 announcement that only 28,000 monarch butterflies were found in California coastal groves in fall 2018, which constituted a 99 percent decline since the 1980s according to a report from High Country News.
Despite these struggles, many activists have taken up the mantle of making a difference and bringing the butterfly populations back, including Raúl Hernández, a tour guide at a butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán state in Mexico.
But Hernández has made headlines across the world in recent days, after his body was found just two days after the funeral of fellow monarch activist Homero Gómez, bearing the signs of beatings and a head injury.
Butterfly activist found dead after disappearing late last month.
According to a report from BBC News, Hernández, 44, disappeared on January 27. He had left his place of work as usual and was last seen in a village called El Oyamel at midday.
Hernández is the second activist campaigning for the conservation of monarch butterflies and the woods in which they hibernate, according to the report.
Six days after his disappearance, his body was found at the top of a hill I the El Campanario monarch butterfly sanctuary. Experts said he had a deep wound to his head, and an investigation is now underway.
Local conservationists fear his death may be linked to Gómez’s who disappeared in the same area on January 13 according to the report. Gómez’s body was found in a well on January 29.
His family said he had received threats warning him to stop his campaign against illegal logging, of which the sanctuary he opened in November was a part.
“He fought for his town, and that fills me with pride,” his son Homero Gomez Valencia, 19 said to the Associated Press. “A lot of the things we have are due to that struggle, which took many years. He fought against a thousand things. He taught us to be a united people.”
The butterflies typically hibernate in the pine and fir forests of the region.
Gómez’s body showed no signs of violence originally, but a post mortem examination conducted later showed he had suffered a blow to the head before drowning in the well.
Speculation is that criminal gangs may have been involved considering their illegal activities reportedly include killings carried out to preserve their logging and mining activities.
Tens of thousands of monarchs can often be seen in the area, a sight which draws tourists from near and far. But environmentalists have warned that illegal logging poses a major risk to these forests and the butterflies that depend on them for winter survival.
For more information, check out the full BBC report by clicking here.
Watch a 2018 report on butterflies in the region below from ABC News: