Mexican butterfly activist found dead

The body of an environmental activist who fought to protect the famed monarch butterfly has been found in a well two weeks after he went missing, officials say.

Homero Gomez Gonzalez, 50, was reported missing on 14 January amid fears he had been targeted by criminal gangs and illegal loggers in the central Mexican state of Michoacan.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, however an initial investigation found his body showed no apparent signs of violence.

Last week, prosecutors questioned 53 local police officers over Mr Gomez’s disappearance.

As the manager of El Rosario butterfly reserve and a former communal land officer, he led efforts to preserve the pine and fir mountaintop forests where the monarch butterfly spends the winter.

Millions of monarchs come to the forests of Michoacan and other areas after making the 3,400-mile migration from the United States and Canada.

They need healthy tree cover to protect them from rain and cold weather.

Mexico has clamped down on illegal logging, which was once a major threat to the reserves but which has fallen to about one-third of last year’s level.

But there have been reports of increased “salvage” logging of supposedly sick trees.

In an interview in November last year, Mr Gomez said the butterfly sanctuary had worked to eradicate the felling of trees and planted more than a million new firs and pines in four years.

Disputes over water from mountain springs have also occurred in the region, and avocado planters have long coveted the area, which has near-ideal growing conditions for the valuable fruit.

Mr Gomez was last seen at about 7pm on 13 January in the town of El Soldado, Ocampo, and was reported missing the next day.

More than 200 volunteers helped search for him, along with officials from the municipal police, land authority and security ministry.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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