Majestic monarch butterflies fluttered through Mexico in their annual migration. But this year, the swarms of international tourists that typically accompany their arrival are not making the trip as people eschew travel.
Every year millions of orange and black monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles across the North American continent.
And sanctuaries in the western state of Michoacan, a World Heritage Site and home to the Mexico's largest monarch butterfly reserve, are typically a major tourist attraction.
Sanctuary officials, such as Ejidatario Abel Cruz, say they have only seen about 15% of the foot traffic they would normally receive on weekends. That’s unwelcome news for a community that relies on tourist dollars.
"Compared to other years when we used to receive some 2,500 people, now we only get about 350 to 400 per day every weekend. The situation is very difficult. Many people who make a living from this season have not had enough to invest, many have closed their businesses.''
The tourism slowdown comes as sanctuary officials hoped to keep monarchs in the spotlight. Environmental agencies say the butterflies face threats from urban development, pesticides and climate change.
The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged in December that monarch butterflies deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but said they must wait behind 161 other species. They are not expected be listed until after October of 2023.
Officials are monitoring the areas occupied by the monarchs this year and a final count is pending to determine the population's size.