Wednesday, 7 September 2016

What would Trump's wall mean for wildlife?

By Jonathan Sullivan Science writer
1 September 2016

Free movement between the US and Mexico - the hottest of topics in the 2016 US presidential campaign - is not just a human issue. What would the construction of a wall mean for animals that live near the border?

In June 2015, from the lobby of the building that bears his name in Manhattan, the businessman Donald Trump announced his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

One of the pledges he made during his announcement was to construct an impenetrable barrier running the length of the US border with Mexico. It would be, Trump said, "a great, great wall on our southern border".

As the Republican primary progressed, his wall pledge became a literal rallying cry, with supporters shouting "build the wall" at public appearances.

Trump, of course, subsequently secured the nomination. His wall proposal, symbolizing his position on immigration, has sparked heated debate. But it mainly centres on the wall's economic feasibility, social consequences and ethics.

Very few people have been talking about what it would mean for wildlife.

The US-Mexico border region is a delicate ecosystem located between twobiomes, with regular animal and bird migrations moving between the north and south of the American continent.

It is home to a diverse population of mammals, birds and plants, including the iconic American roadrunner and the saguaro cactus, the cinematic symbol of the American southwest. The dry, desert ecosystem also supports cougars, desert bighorn sheep, the endangered North American jaguar and the ocelot - which is down to its last 50 animals in southern Texas.

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