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Former logger and defender of the region’s monarch butterfly was found floating in a well on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.
Homero Gómez González went missing on Jan. 13. His disappearance sent a shockwave through environmental conservationists’ communities in the U.S. and Mexico. Search teams were created by local authorities and the state district attorney launched an investigation. It seemed almost immediately when his fellow activists began to suspect foul play from loggers and criminal groups whom González may have angered during his conversation efforts.
González was found in a well near the butterfly sanctuary he spent decades working to preserve, according to Miguel Angel Cruz, González’s successor as commissioner of the community of El Rosario.
The cause of González’s death is still unknown.
Last month, González conducted an interview with The Washington Poat at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly preserve. He spoke about his efforts and the challenges faced while protecting the butterflies.
“It’s been a fight to maintain it. And it hasn’t been easy.”
Millions of monarch butterflies have wintered on the remote hilltops in the Mexican state of Michoacán, however, the logging in the region has nearly destroyed the butterfly’s habitat, “a convergence of geography and landscape that may be impossible to replicate,” according to The Seattle Times.
Eventually, the Mexican government outlawed logging in the area. This decision gave new life to the population of monarch butterflies. The new laws also created tension between the local loggers and conservationists. Between 2005 and 2006, 461 hectares in the region were lost due to illegal logging.
González openly spoke about growing up in a logging family. At first, he was skeptical about the idea of conservation.
“We were afraid that if we stopped logging, it would send us all into poverty,” González told The Washington Post.
Nevertheless, González eventually came around to the idea of the sanctuary. He saw the potential for tourism. He started working with conservationists from the World Wildlife Fund and scientists from around the world. The butterfly defender tweeted videos of himself in clouds of monarch butterflies, encouraging visitors to experience the magic. The last video was posted hours before he disappeared.
After he vanished, people called González’s family claiming to have kidnapped him and demanded a ransom for his safe return.
This month, Mexico stated that over 61,000 people are missing. The majority of those missing people are suspected victims of criminal organizations. In the case of González, his neighbors and colleagues have been left to guess what might have happened.
Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo reported earlier this week, “I have faith that we will find him. I want us to find him alive.”
According to authorities, González’s body was discovered in a well in the community of El Soldado de Ocampo, near the butterfly sanctuary. Local media outlets were told that González’s body did not have any obvious signs of violence and his friends did not have any details to offer.
“For now, we don’t know anything,” stated Angel Cruz.
The Michoacán attorney general’s office confirmed the death of González but did not comment on the investigation.
“Since he was young, Homero has been behind the sanctuary,” according to Gloria Tavera, who is an official with Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas.
In an interview last week, Tavera said she did not believe his disappearance was connected to his activism.
She said, “We think they are independent things.”
By Jeanette Vietti
The Seattle Times: Homero Gómez González, Mexico’s monarch butterfly defender, found dead
New York Post: Homero Gómez González, prominent butterfly activist in Mexico, found dead in a well
The New York Times: Missing Monarch Butterfly Activist Found Dead in Mexico
Image Courtesy of Peter Miller’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License