By Rahul Kalvapalle
National Online Journalist
U.S. President Donald Trump‘s planned border wall between the U.S. and Mexico will put several species of wildlife in jeopardy by restricting their movements, destroying their habitats and disrupting regional environmental patterns, according to a new study carried out by 16 researchers from the U.S. and Mexico.
Jaguars, wolves, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are some of the already-threatened animals that stand to be the most affected by a continuous wall along the 3,200-km border, says the study, which was published in the journal BioScience.
The border “bisects the geographic ranges of 1,506 native terrestrial and freshwater animal [species],” the authors wrote, pointing out that these include 62 species already considered endangered or vulnerable.
Non-profit organization Defenders of Wildlife, which was involved in the study, said in a recent report that construction of the wall will result in destruction of vegetation that many animals graze on, while the wall itself stands to wreak havoc with animals’ migration patterns, with the accompanying infrastructure, patrols, lights and noise further disrupting their behaviour.
“Some of the affected animals are charismatic as well as threatened,” said co-author and Oregon State University ecology professor William Ripple in a press release. “A continuous wall would disconnect any jaguars and ocelots in the U.S. from their major range in Mexico.”
Seventeen per cent of the species analyzed in the study could be at risk of extirpation (local extinction) within the U.S. once the wall goes up, said co-author and Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich.
The wall “could rob us of iconic creatures such as the endangered Peninsular Bighorn sheep and the Sonoran pronghorn antelope,” Ehrlich told the Stanford Report, adding that these animals are prized by nature lovers, hunters and Indigenous communities alike.
The study points the finger at the 2005 Real ID Act, a U.S. law that made it easier to construct physical barriers at borders, pointing out that the law made it possible for border wall construction to proceed “without the necessary depth of environmental impact analysis, development of less-damaging alternative strategies, post-construction environmental monitoring, mitigation, public input, and pursuit of legal remedies.”
The paper suggests that Congress do more to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) follows environmental laws, and that the DHS should track at-risk species before and after construction, take more steps to reduce environmental harms, and work to ensure that the wall doesn’t hamper scientific research work along the border.
“The border extends about 3,200 kilometers and bisects many important habitat types from desert to forest to scrublands to mountain ranges,” said Ripple. “These are important wildlife habitats, high in biological diversity, that span both sides of the border. I hope national leaders will listen to our conservation message.”