The population of Eastern migratory Monarch butterflies has seen a precipitous decline in the last 30 years due to loss of habitat in both their overwintering and northern summer range. Illegal logging in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico reduce the area for migrating monarchs to overwinter in, while increased high-intensity farming and urban sprawl reduces milkweed populations across their summer range. In recognition of the many issues facing the Monarch butterfly, the Toledo Zoo takes a two-pronged approach to monarch conservation through our Wild Toledo program. Through the native plant nursery, prairie installation and native landscape installations, Wild Toledo has planted tens of thousands of milkweed plants throughout NW Ohio. In addition to habitat creation, each year, biologists collect Monarch eggs from milkweed at the Toledo Zoo and rear the individuals on swamp milkweed produced in the Wild Toledo nursery. These individuals are bred and their offspring released into the wild for their annual migration to Mexico. Toledo Zoo staff raise and release over 1000 tagged monarchs yearly in our prairie installations across NW Ohio.
The Toledo Zoo participates in the Monarch Watch tagging program, where citizen scientists across the country can report spotting tagged monarchs. This tagging program allows scientists to track the yearly migration and better understand the largest insect migration in the world.
Toledo Zoo's Wild Toledo is working to reverse population decline with a multifaceted approach to local butterfly conservation. Wild Toledo restores local habitats in the form of urban prairies and formal native landscapes and the plants used in these installations provide food, shelter, and habitat for all life stages of our local butterfly species. In some instances, Wild Toledo helps augment natural recovery processes by captive breeding butterflies for release into the wild where they can help bolster existing populations or colonize newly created habitat. Wild Toledo also conducts field research to evaluate the response of pollinators to these conservation efforts as well as inform future management practices.
Karner Blue Butterfly
The Karner blue butterfly was listed as an endangered species in 1992 because of habitat loss and loss of the flowering plant lupine, of which this animal depends on for its life cycle. This butterfly is a symbol of the Oak Openings Region and was last seen in Ohio in 1988. Toledo Zoo is working with partners at ODOW, USFWS and TNC to protect these butterflies by completing population counts, captive rearing and vegetation analysis in particular habitats.