Who Is Pato Moreno? The Story Behind the Viral Butterfly Video

Ellen Sharp
Jun 24, 2019 · 4 min read

On February 2, 2019, Pato Moreno had a few hundred Facebook “friends,” many of them visitors he’d met through his job as a forest ranger in the Cerro Pelon Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Then he posted a video he’d taken at work that day. By the week’s end, he’d accepted 3,000 friend requests and his personal page had attracted 25K followers.

Pato wonders why the first clip in this sequence garnered so much attention; he’s pretty fond of the other two as well.

What was it about this particular video? Pato filmed it lying down looking up at the monarchs flying out of their colony around 1 pm to look for water lower down on the mountain. He shot in slow motion on a high-quality camera that had been donated to the forest conservation non-profit Butterflies & Their People by members of the International Butterfly Breeder’s Association (Thank you, IBBA!).

This video now has almost 50,000 views. But how many of these viewers know anything about Pato, Cerro Pelon or the conditions that made this video possible?

Pato on Cerro Pelon with a storm-damaged butterfly.

I asked Pato what he wanted people who see this video to know about him. He said, “Tell them that I’m married.” It seems he got more than a few flirty messages during his 15 minutes of fame. I can see why — he comes across as a sensitive guy with an artistic eye and a passionate dedication to butterflies, which is all true. But he’s also super-devoted to his wife and kids. “What else?” I asked.

“About CEPANAF,” he said. CEPANAF stands for the Commission Estatal de Parques Naturales y de la Fauna. His father worked for CEPANAF as a ranger for more than 35 years, and when he retired 5 years ago, Pato took over his job. They never get many props, but the CEPANAF rangers have been quietly up there on the mountain keeping trees from getting cut down on the State of Mexico side of the sanctuary, which has made Cerro Pelon the most pristine of Mexico’s butterfly sanctuaries.

B&TP Guardian Jose Carmen (L) with the three CEPANAF rangers on Cerro Pelon.

When Pato started working, there was a lot of clandestine logging going on. And it’s heartbreaking to see trees the butterflies use pilfered for timber. It was at Pato’s urging that his brother Joel and I founded the non-profit Butterflies & Their People, so that we could raise funds to hire more people to protect Cerro Pelon.

It used to be that every Thursday, Pato patrolled this 8,000-acre park by himself. Starting in late 2017, he no longer works alone. Butterflies and Their People currently employs four full-time forest guardians. Working together, the rangers and the guardians get so much more done — they pick up trash, build firebreaks, and make trails safer. Most importantly, since they started, the amount of illegal logging in the core protected area has dropped precipitously.

Trail work on Cerro Pelon by the Butterflies & Their People forest guardians.

Pato is the linchpin of the whole project. He manages the forest guardians, their schedules, and their work duties on a day-to-day basis while we’re down here in the valley running our B&B or fundraising to keep paying the guardians.

Another project that Pato and the guardians work on is keeping the Cerro Pelon segment of the Locus Sonus Sound Map running — it’s a super-sensitive, solar-powered open mike located near one of the monarch colony sites.

On June 30, 2019 at noon CT, Pato and the arborists will conduct a prize drawing in range of the mike. People who have donated at least $200 are eligible to win a canvas art print of a Sabrina Dao image. Donate at least $100, and be eligible to win a copy of the bilingual children’s book Saving the Migration by the Monarch Habitat Initiative.

This is the first ever event planned for the only streambox in Mexico. Tune in to hear Pato speak and meet the Butterflies & Their People forest guardians. If even a tiny sliver of the folks who found Pato through his viral video donate, we can keep the Butterflies & Their People Project going and continue to maintain the habitat that forms the basis for Pato’s mesmerizing video visions.

Donate to Butterflies & Their People here.

Tune in to the sounds of Cerro Pelon here.

See Sabrina Dao’s images here.

Find out how to visit Cerro Pelon and support ecotourism here.

Ellen Sharp

Written by

Cultural anthropologist, co-owner of JM Butterfly B&B, and director of Butterflies & Their People, A.C.

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