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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Fabled monarch butterflies are facing a new threat from severe storms that have devastated some sanctuary forests in Mexico, conservation groups said on Monday.
The Nature Conservancy said in a news conference that storm damage in Mexico's 13,000-hectare (32,124 acre) monarch reserve is yet another blow to the fragile butterflies, which arrived in Mexico in record low numbers last season after a 2,000-mile journey from spots as far north as Canada.
Illegal logging has long threatened the butterflies in western Mexico, where clouds of orange and black butterflies are a common sight during the winter.
But the 117 hectares (289 acres) damaged this winter were due instead to torrential rains and heavy winds, said Omar Vidal, head of World Wildlife Fund Mexico.
"We can say that extreme climate events will be more frequent and more intense," Juan Bezaury, Mexico representative for The Nature Conservancy, told reporters.
February is typically one of the driest months in Mexico, but days of heavy rain, hail and sleet this year knocked countless butterflies from their perches.
Many scientists blame recent extreme weather events on climate change caused by greenhouse gasses including industrial carbon.
Mexico, host of the next round of United Nations climate talks that begin in late November, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 50 million tonnes in 2012.
It says sustainable forestry and reforestation will be a key part of its strategy for curbing carbon emissions.
Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Missy Ryan and Todd Eastham