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Montreal runner following 4,500-km monarch butterfly migration path to Mexico

Anthony Battah, who aims to make it to Mexico's Michoacán region by Nov. 1, says he hopes to inspire others to take action to protect the species

Anthony Battah of Montreal

Montreal lawyer Anthony Battah has completed the Canadian leg of a planned 4,500-km run from Montreal to central Mexico, a cross-continental journey along the migratory path of the monarch butterfly aimed at protecting the insect’s population.

Battah, who kicked off his Ultra-Trail Monarch campaign July 29 from Montreal’s Insectarium, finished the Canadian stretch of his run (more than 900 km) Wednesday, when he crossed the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ont., into Detroit.

The runner is being supported on his run by his wife and daughter, who are following the 39-year-old in an RV along his route through the United States to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico’s Michoacán region. Battah’s goal is to run about 50 km a day, which would see him arrive at the biosphere—where the monarchs spend the winter—by Nov. 1.

The monarch butterfly is now classified as an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. According to The Nature Conservancy, the insect is an important pollinator that plays a vital role in the health of many ecosystems across North America.

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

According to the Ultra-Trail Monarch website, Battah will plant milkweed and flowers rich in nectar to create “aid stations” for future generations of monarch butterflies.

In addition to encouraging others to plant milkweed and other flowers to help the migrating insects thrive, Battah hopes to raise $4.5 million—or $1 per metre he plans on running—to “help serious organizations dedicated to protecting the monarch and biodiversity.”

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

monarch butterly on plant

Battah’s run is the latest campaign to use ultra running to bring attention to the plight of the monarch butterfly. In 2019, the first Monarch Ultra Relay was held from Peterborough, Ont., to the Cerro Pelón butterfly sanctuary in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. Throughout the 47-day journey, 44 ultrarunners volunteered to run segments of 50K to 100K, following the monarch butterfly’s migration route.

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