BFF-85 2,700 scientists warn US-Mexico wall endangers wildlife

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2,700 scientists warn US-Mexico wall endangers wildlife

TAMPA, July 24, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – More than 1,000 species of animals would
face serious threats to their survival if US President Donald Trump’s
proposed border wall with Mexico is built, scientists warned on Tuesday.

Iconic creatures such as the Peninsular Bighorn sheep, Mexican gray wolf
and the Sonoran pronghorn antelope — all of which are already endangered —
would see their populations dangerously fragmented by a wall, said the letter
published in the journal BioScience.

Jaguars (panthera onca) and ocelots (leopardus pardalis) would be among the
species that would have “residual US populations” covering 7,800 square miles
(20,000 square kilometers) or less, raising their risk of dying off
completely in the United States.

More than 2,700 global scientists signed on to the letter by lead author
Robert Peters of Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group.

The letter details threats to biodiversity along the 2,000-mile (3,200-
kilometer) US-Mexico border, which Trump wants to wall off in an effort to
stop the flow of illegal migrants.

“Fence and wall construction over the past decade and efforts by the Trump
administration to complete a continuous border ‘wall’ threaten some of the
continent’s most biologically diverse regions,” said the letter.

“Already-built sections of the wall are reducing the area, quality, and
connectivity of plant and animal habitats and are compromising more than a
century of binational investment in conservation,” it added, lamenting that
“political and media attention… often understate or misrepresent the harm
done to biodiversity.”

When populations of animals are fragmented, they have a harder time finding
mates, food, water and safe habitat, and face higher risks of extinction.

“Cut off like this, the bighorn and other animals and plants will become
zombie species — populations that are demographically and genetically
doomed,” said co-author and Stanford University biologist Rodolfo Dirzo.

The border region includes more than 1,000 animals and over 400 plants.

A total of 62 of these species are “already listed as Critically
Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable by the International Union for
Conservation of Nature,” said the letter.

Co-author and Stanford University professor of biology Paul Ehrlich said in
a statement that the wall, and “the accompanying construction and maintenance
infrastructure would be a crime against biodiversity.”

The letter urged US officials to identify species at risk from the wall
construction, design barriers that allow wildlife to pass through as much as
possible, and purchase or restore replacement habitat when environmental harm
is inevitable.

As it stands, a US law passed in 2005 gives the Department of Homeland
Security authority to waive protections such as the Endangered Species Act if
they are deemed to be factors in slowing the wall’s construction.

Trump’s wall has still not secured major financing. A bill that would have
included $25 billion to fund it failed last month in the House of
Representatives.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2336 hrs