A Monarch Butterfly Advocate Is Missing. Are Illegal Loggers to Blame?

Homero Gómez González has been defending the species for years

Monarch butterflies in the El Rosario sanctuary in Mexico
Thousands of monarch butterflies in the El Rosario sanctuary in Mexico.
Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty
By Alex Lauer / January 24, 2020 5:01 am

This month, Mexican authorities said that more than 61,000 people are missing in the country, mostly as a result of criminal organizations. So when Homero Gómez González disappeared on January 13, he could have become another statistic — if it were not for the butterflies. 

Gómez González is the manager of a massive monarch butterfly sanctuary in the town of El Rosario. Securing the sanctuary, and maintaining it for the survival of the species, has meant a “decades-old battle against illegal logging,” writes The Washington Post. Now, those loggers are potentially linked to a more heinous crime. 

“Investigators have not suggested any theories about what might have happened to him, but many in Rosario suspect that loggers kidnapped him,” writes the Post. Not only that, but according to the spokesperson for the Michoacán attorney general’s office, “Gómez González’s family had recently received calls demanding money for his safe return.”

The monarch sanctuary in El Rosario, in the Michoacán state, is part of the federal Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite logging being outlawed in the area to protect the crucial habitat of the butterfly species, as the Post reports, the men involved in the illegal practice still wield “enormous power.” 

In fact, Gómez González used to make his money cutting down trees, but he eventually became a fierce advocate for the monarch butterfly, in part because of the potential for El Rosario’s sanctuary to increase tourism. He frequently posted videos of himself among thousands of the insects: 

His last tweet is from January 13, the day of his disappearance. At the time of writing, no arrests have yet been made in the case.

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