What a Zoo: Butterfly Conservation

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Butterfly populations have been dwindling for decades. But the Toledo Zoo is fighting to keep the species alive.

Ryan Walsh, Conservation Coordinator with the Zoo tells 13abc, "We raise them here in the greenhouse. We can make sure that they're not getting preyed upon by spiders or any other insects, or anything that would kill them."

In fact, there's a drastic difference in survival rates for butterflies bred in the greenhouses, versus the wild.

Walsh explains, "A typical monarch female lays 300 eggs. In the wild, 1 or 2 will become an adult. Here in the greenhouse, 95 to 100% are going to become an adult."

And when you're dealing with an endangered species, the survival rate is critical.

"Monarchs have declined by over 95% in the last 20 years."

Walsh says pesticides and loss of habitat are to blame. And the Toledo Zoo has been fighting the decline for decades, focusing on populations in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan.

A big part of the effort, though, is growing everything the butterflies need, right here.

Walsh says, "As with humans, the growth rate of the animal depends on the nutrition of the plant. So we want to make sure that we're providing the most nutritious plants possible. A lot of commercial nurseries use pesticides, and we can't have that because that would obviously kill our butterflies. We know exactly what has happened to these plants from the very beginning."

The Toledo Zoo has a population ready to be released into the wild in the next few weeks, and more monarch populations will be released later in the summer.