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US President Donald Trump had vehemently promoted the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border during his Presidential campaign. One year later, he has made things official by demanding up to $20 billion from the Mexican Government for the same.

Apart from the fact that such a wall may not serve its purpose of curbing illegal drug trade across the border, there are far reaching implications that nobody seems to be interested in.

Initially, the wall was expected to run through 3.1 miles of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo County, Texas, which would have been disastrous to the migratory and other, wildlife there (200 species present). Congress, however, claimed that the Santa Ana has been excluded from the border wall.

The region around the US-Mexico boundary lies in the tropical belt and is home to quite a variety of wildlife. On the US side, there are jaguars and ocelots, which prowl the drylands and on the Mexico side, there are more of the above as well as bobcats, mountain lions, grey wolves, bighorn sheep and many others. The Rio Grande Valley region is also the permanent habitat of reptiles, like the endangered indigo snake and amphibians. In fact, the some of the most Ecologically Sensitive areas in North America are found in these regions.

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If the bill comes to pass and there indeed, is a wall that will be erected along the border, then it would be a dark day for wildlife conservation. The Wildcats will find themselves restricted by cement (uncannily similar to a cage) and those animals used to cross the border to scavenge or escape the winters would find themselves to be terribly trapped. Scientists of great renown, members of the National Academy of Sciences and other researchers, well over 2500 in number, have all endorsed this view.

More recently, it has also come to light that in order to build a wall, patches of land which are the natural habitats of rare animals and plants will have to be disrupted. According to national media, this was an attempt to assuage Trump, by building at least some part of the wall. This includes the National Butterfly Centre (this 100-acre wildlife centre and botanical garden is the most visited place in Hidalgo County), a state park and other areas under the wildlife refuge system. Constructing this section of the wall will be ecologically detrimental as it would create 6500 acres of no man’s land around the wall, effectively trapping the wildlife during the floods of the Rio Grande River and causing conflicts in human-wildlife interactions.

The worry that the construction of the border wall would adversely affect wildlife is not without basis, for the existing 654 miles of the wall that has been 

built of barbed wire, mesh, chain link, bollard, steel and other materials have already proven dangerous for the ecologically sensitive flora and fauna around.

Activists and scientists have organized protests and meetings to discuss the issue. All efforts, however, have been localized. For the movement to gain momentum, the American people must fiercely fight for the cause. Hopefully, this will become a reality in the days to come and the ocelots can rest happy.

Author- Varsha M

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