Skin and Bones

Unravelling the Illegal and controversial industry that threatens global biodiversity.

"I'M GOING TO BUILD A WALL, AND WILDLIFE WILL PAY FOR IT!!"

In a world where President Trump, sends little Eric and Donald Jr off to shoot African wildlife with luxury safari operator and the head of a hidden rhino poaching syndicate; Hugo Ras, who is now facing criminal charges for his part in the trafficking of rhino horn, let's not kid ourselves, wildlife protection was never going to be high on the political agenda. But now, among all the other hazards species must face, there might be a new obstacle in the way:

The influx of refugees escaping war and immigrants into countries all over Europe and America left some people demanding action against these 'terrorists and drug dealers' - no not action to control drug trafficking, stop the wars in Syria or resettle those who have lost everything but, more like deportation and building a giant wall in a drastic attempt to control the flow of people.  The current refugee crisis in Europe has also seen many countries scrambling to get their border controls together with some - perhaps inspiring Donald's campaign promises - even placing physical walls along borders. However, what is an extreme action towards immigration can also be a huge threat towards wildlife who know no geopolitical boundaries.

The Algodones dunes, California 

The Algodones dunes, California 

Indirect impacts:

Walls and fences tend to cut through animals home ranges; fragmenting the habitat and splitting the population in this way can cut off access to mates, causing genetic isolation and inbreeding. Borders can also restrict access to vital resources - particularly a problem for large bodied migratory species or those with large ranges, such as bear, lynx, deer, sheep, big cats and wolves - leading to hunger and dehydration.  The end result, major population reductions or even sudden mass moralities. 

            "But wildlife friendly borders exists, along highways and man made waterways, surely they will make country borders wildlife friendly?" - perhaps not, the ultimate goal for border control is that barriers are impenetrable with designs that reflect this, including underground metal walls and electric fences. In the name of national security the consequences toward wild roaming species do not tend to take high priority in the planning process. In Arizona 37 environmental protection laws have already been renounced (including the Endangered Species Act and the Wilderness Act) in order to strengthen security along the border with Mexico. 

Direct impacts:

111 miles of razor wire fencing has already been erected along one-third of the frontier between Slovenia and Croatia. Found in the barbs along the fence have been a slew of mangled deer carcasses. The grim and painful deaths of animals caught up in border fences has been reported all over the world; from giraffes, elephants and the highly prized sable antelope found dead in Botswana to dead argali (mountain sheep) caught up along the border fence in Tajikistan. 

With a potential Trump extension of the wall in Arizona, the beloved jaguar, greater roadrunner, mule deer and a variety of snakes, lizards and frogs could all face a similar fate (documented by the Sierra Club in the film Wild vs Wall).

 

Not only can animals become entrapped in barbed wire in a desperate plight to cross borders but the fences themselves supply an amply amount of free wire for poachers to cut down and use for snares. 

Wire snares, Credit: Watervale Safaris

Wire snares, Credit: Watervale Safaris

 

Permanent walls would 'undo decades of conservation and international collaboration efforts' causing population declines and local disappearances of species, sending a ripple of degradation through the ecosystem. 

While border fences are necessary to protect national security, people are pretty resourceful and will find a way through regardless, sometimes even with a simple pair of wire cutters. Wildlife legislation has to be taken seriously and more has to be done to protect animals who just want a chance at freedom. 

El Jefe, the only known jaguar in the United States residing in Arizona, believed to have crossed the U.S. - Mexico border. 

El Jefe, the only known jaguar in the United States residing in Arizona, believed to have crossed the U.S. - Mexico border. 

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