He’s running to Mexico with monarchs to help preserve their existence

Montreal lawyer Anthony Battah is running the 3,000-mile, Canada-to-Mexico migratory path of monarch butterflies like this one to help raise awareness to their plight. This photograph was taken at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Arboretum in Hopewell Township, N.J. (Photo by Wayne Fish)

      Every weekend there are runners who take on five miles or 50 for their favorite charity.

      For most, it’s about the good feeling one gets from helping others.

      So imagine how much self-satisfaction Montreal’s Anthony Battah will experience when he completes a 3,000-plus-mile run (or 4,500 kilometers) from Canada to Mexico to help raise funds for the endangered monarch butterfly.

      In fact, Battah is following the annual migratory route of the monarch, which is now considered an endangered species in Canada.

      Just as recently as the turn of the century 23 years ago, there were believed to be as many as one billion of the attractive orange and black butterflies in North America.

      But land development, climate change, insecticides/pesticides and pollution have all conspired to cut the number by as much as 90 percent.

      Monarchs are great pollinators for flowers and plants. Driving them to extinction would be a loss for all mankind.

      According to Canadian Running Magazine, Battah embarked on his journey on July 29 from Montreal’s Insectarium and was scheduled to complete the 600-mile Canadian segment of his journey this past week.

      He’s being supported by his wife and daughter, who are following him in a recreational vehicle. Battah has been running literally a marathon a day, or about 30 miles.

      The monarch’s status is not much better in the United States. Residents of Bucks County and the Delaware Valley are accustomed to seeing the monarch land on milkweed, its favorite source of nutrition.

      “I have this ability to run very long distances. I stumbled on the story of the monarch and it touched me,” Battah said during an interview with the Montreal Gazette. “I saw an opportunity to challenge myself but also to inspire people to do something in their own areas of interest.”

      But Battah’s contribution doesn’t stop there.

      While on his journey, he plans to plant milkweed and flowers rich in nectar to create “aid stations” for future generations of monarchs, who are the only butterflies to migrate thousands of miles south to warmer environments over the winter.

      Think his aspirations are high? Well, he’s planning to raise about $4.5 million or $1 for each kilometer he runs. The goal is to help “serious organizations dedicated to protecting the monarch and biodiversity.”

      Back in September, 2020 we wrote a column about the plight of the monarch in this area. While one can still spot the occasional monarch floating through the fields, it’s not like it was a generation ago.

      Fairfax Hutter, a naturalist/conservationist/hiker who participates in an annual census count in New Jersey for the North American Butterfly Association, said in 2020 the numbers from that year’s findings were “way down.’’

      Hutter has been discouraged by what recent surveys uncovered.

     “We were like really bummed,’’ she said. “This was universally expressed amongst other groups who went out, people on social media on nature pages – for some reason, it was a really bad year.’’

     Hutter has been helping with the NABA census for the better part of a decade and each year seems to be part of a downward trend.

     “There’s an overall decline,’’ she said. “One of the things that was so stunning about this summer was the habitat looked really good because they were doing a restoration (Mercer Meadows in Pennington, N.J.)

     “The milkwood was there but the butterflies weren’t. We were getting reports from Pennsylvania, North Jersey: ’Where are the butterflies?’ We were all concerned.’’

      Meanwhile, Battah hopes to reach central Mexico by November 1. That’s where the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is located in the Michoaan region. It’s the winter home of millions of monarch butterflies.

      “My commercial partners are with me, YOU are with me,” Battah posted on Instagram. “It may look like Iike I’m running alone but I’m not. I can feel your energy and support and it helps me a lot.”

      Back in 2019, the first Monarch Ultra-Relay was held from Peterborough, Ontario to the Cerro Pelon butterfly sanctuary in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. This was a non-stop journey of just 47 days, covered by 44 volunteers who ran 50 to 100K per day.

      Battah is taking that one step further.

      “I want to do something significant to protect biodiversity and the environment,” he said. “If I’m capable of running 4,500 kilometers to reach the center of Mexico, everyone has the capacity to join forces and do a little bit more.”

      Race calendar

      Saturday, Sept. 9

      54th annual Mill Street Run, 8:15 a.m., Bristol. Contact www.runsignup.com

      9/11 Heroes Run, Feasterville. Contact https://911heroesrunfeastervillepa.itsyourrace.com/register

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About Wayne Fish 2471 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.