The border wall running along the US-Mexico border was built to keep migrants out, but conservationists say the towering metal barrier also stops wildlife from moving between natural habitats.
Alarmed by the impact on animals including jaguars, bears and mountain lions, activists from the United States and Mexico have joined forces to try to protect the biodiversity corridor.
“This part of the border is one of the most interesting places in North America,” said Valerie Clark, founder of the cross-border wildlife organization Cuenca Los Ojos (CLO).
Bears, mountain lions, deer, bighorn sheep and coatimundis are among the animals roaming the arid lands of southern Arizona and the northern Mexican state of Sonora, she told AFP.
But camera footage and conservationists’ own observations reveal deer, mountain lions and black bears striding along the border wall, confused and unable to reach their former ranges, according to the group.
One family of wild boars spent five hours trying to get over the wall in search of water, said Jose Manuel Perez, CLO’s director of conservation.
Meanwhile, border lighting deters nocturnal animals and could cause migratory birds that navigate by moonlight or starlight to lose their way, environmentalists warned.
The wall was first erected by the United States in 1994 and has been significantly strengthened during the 2017-2021 presidency of Donald Trump.
The barrier, which stretches across almost the entire southern edge of Arizona, “severely affects” animal migration, Perez said.
The CLO is calling for the parts of the border wall that cause the most harm to wildlife to be removed or modified, and for all transboundary rivers to be restored.
It’s been more than 40 years since Clark moved to a cattle ranch in southwestern Arizona, where the New Yorker said she fell in love with the wide open spaces.
It was a very different place then, where people easily crossed the border to visit relatives, she recalls.
The region may appear barren, but in fact “it’s full of important wildlife and diversity,” said Eamonn Harrity, wildlife project manager at the Sky Island Alliance, another conservation group active in the area.
“The development of a large human barrier has consequences,” he said.
Jaguars may return to the US Southwest, but only if they have roads to travel north
© 2022 AFP
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