According to an article by the Canadian Press, Monarch Butterflies are making a dramatic recovery in North America.
From the dismal failures of a few short years ago, efforts by individuals, municipalities, counties and even countries (i.e. Canada, USA and Mexico) have helped immensely in this recovery. Habitat loss, pesticides and inclement weather led to the previous failures. Now a new threat has been reported. Some claim, the US/Mexican wall will hinder the northward migration of the Monarch Butterfly. Not so; they can readily fly hundreds of meters above the earth as they migrate. But discussions about the wall should lead to more impactful questions about impacts to other wildlife.
Dr. Luke Hunter, (www.panthera.org), warns, five species of big cats in North America (i.e. jaguar, ocelot, puma, bobcat and jaguarondi) will be negatively impacted if the wall is completed. Krista Schlyer, writing for the National Geographic magazine adds, “a list of species likely to be affected was prepared by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It included 10 plants and animals on federal and state endangered lists, 23 on Texas’s threatened list and dozens of species of concern.” Jesse Laskey, of Penn State University, warns the wall will put additional stress on Arroyo Toads, California Red-legged Frogs, Black-spotted Newts and Pacific Pond Turtles, all listed as endangered or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
One of the greatest risks associated with the building of the wall is the disruption of migratory, breeding and feeding pathways, as the wall will create fragmented and disconnected pathways, which will assuredly negatively impact hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and fish. Mammals and birds rely on uninterrupted expansive habitats in order to fulfill all their survival and procreation needs. Animals, such as the bobcat and puma, have large ranges to ensure enough prey is available for survival. The builder of a wall cannot anticipate the negative impacts a wall might impose, as they can’t anticipate where the critical range boundaries are.
Nature is effective in filling space so available habitats are used by available animals. To expect a displaced bobcat to simply move to a new habitat depends upon, if there is habitat available. This is seldom the case. Critically endangered animals, such as the Ocelot, will likely be extirpated from the US side of the wall as their population is so small (estimated at 50 animals). They simply must cross the barrier to ensure genetic diversity and their very survival.
Often, migratory pathways are marked by identifiable landmarks, such as rivers and shorelines, guiding the migrants northward. This is true, not just for birds and mammals but for insects as well, since many butterflies and dragonflies, amongst others, migrate long distances annually. Building a 6 meter tall structure may disrupt the line of sight indicators these animals need to effectively migrate. Add to this, many birds and mammals rely on line of sight to see predators, rivals, and prospective mates, and the wall will result in an even greater negative influence.
Impacts to aquatic organisms are even harder to evaluate. Erosion, subtle changes in the river bed contours, minimal but important impacts to prey species all have to be factored in. Even though impacts might appear subtle or insignificant at first glance, yet over time they might be critical.
So what are we to do? It's a tough question, as we can speak but someone has to listen. We must set aside our own biases for or against an initiative, because a voice tainted by bias is no voice at all. In Ontario, we are considering a cull of cormorants at a time and in a manner that appears unsustainable, and in fact may have serious negative consequences on species we wish to protect. We are reviewing the Endangered Species Act, but the consequences have to be measured carefully against the benefits. Is it acceptable to streamline a development approval process and jeopardize species at risk? Don’t be afraid to have a voice but use it wisely.
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.