The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, just added the migrating monarch butterfly to its “red list" for the first time, categorizing it as an endangered species.
Scientists say this is a wake-up call with the migrating monarch butterfly just two steps away from extinction.
“By having those depleted populations now, we are also going to lose a massive spectacle that essentially is one of the wonders of the world," said Dr. Monika Böhm, IUCN SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group Co-chair.
The migratory monarch is a sub-species of the monarch butterfly.
Dr. Böhm reviewed the listing by IUCN and said a species lands on this list by assessing its extinction risk.
The organization said in this case, the rapid population decline over the last 10 years was the main factor.
Loss of habitat and lack of food supply also makes it harder for the butterflies to survive, but not all hope is lost.
“The Central Coast you all are in is a really special place," said Emma Pelton, Xerces Society Conservation Biologist.
Pelton focuses on western monarch butterflies and said last year on the Central Coast, we saw a bounce back in the population.
To put the numbers into perspective, last year, we saw around 20,871 butterflies at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. The year prior, only 199 were counted. In 2015, the number of butterflies counted at the grove was 28,073.
“Each one of us has a role we can play to have a huge impact, just by planting those native plants and incorporating native milkweeds into our spaces," said Erin Krier, an Allan Hancock Agricultural Coordinator and Instructor.
Scientists focusing on monarch butterflies say they will continue to assess the migratory butterfly populations and will need at least five years to really know how the population is consistently doing and see a leveling of the population.
The United States has not yet listed monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act, and the IUCN listing does not provide any legal protections.