Trump’s Border Wall Would be Disastrous for Jaguar Recovery

The proposed border wall would effectively trap jaguars and other wildlife south of the border. Jaguar by Martin Strauss. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Jaguar by Martin Strauss. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By now it is common knowledge that Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. This would cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, and experts say it would not stop people from illegally crossing the border (Owens, 2017; Center for Biological Diversity, 2017). What it would do is dismantle Southwest ecosystems – and put a stop to jaguar recovery in the United States.

Conservation organizations have been weighing in on Trump’s wall, and their assessments are hardly supportive. Two of them, Panthera and the Center for Biological Diversity, have stressed its harmful effects on wild felids (cats). They emphasized that Trump’s wall would sever animals’ travel routes, stranding them on either side of the border. As both groups point out, this would end any hope for jaguar recovery in the U.S.

I have written extensively about the jaguar’s extirpation and reemergence in the United States. In short, heavy persecution by European Americans led to the great cat’s extinction north of the border. Then, a series of sightings in the late 1990s confirmed that jaguars were returning. As far as anyone can tell, all of these individuals have been dispersing males from the Mexican state of Sonora. While this is encouraging, true recovery is still a long way off. No female jaguars have been documented in the U.S. since 1963, and they typically do not disperse as far as males.

Existing border walls are already disrupting the lives of Southwestern animals. There is no need to make it worse. Image (c) Northern Jaguar Project and reproduced from
Existing border walls are already disrupting the lives of wild animals. There is no need to make it worse. Image © Northern Jaguar Project and reproduced from

Therefore, jaguar recovery depends on keeping the border open for wildlife. Important conservation work is being conducted in Sonora, which might lead to an increase in the northernmost breeding population of jaguars. Eventually female jaguars may begin entering the U.S., but not if there is a wall in the way.

I understand that border security is a serious concern, but Trump’s wall is not the answer. It would be an immense burden on U.S. taxpayers, would fail to solve the problem, and would harm rare Southwest wildlife. It is imperative that we do not allow our short-term fears to override the long-term health of our ecosystems. What our country needs right now is healing: not fragmentation. If we want to usher in the recovery of the most magnificent animal in the Western hemisphere, then border security must allow for natural wildlife movements.

Further Reading:

Jaguars in the United States: Part 1

Jaguars in the United States: Part 2

Panthera Statement on Proposed U.S.-Mexico Border Wall and Impact on Wild Cats and Other Wildlife

Trump’s Wall ‘Would End Any Chance of Recovery for Endangered Jaguars’

18 Thoughts

  1. Unfortunately, in efforts to fix unrelated problems, systemic related problems will manifest. Prior to this article, I didn’t imagine how it could affect wildlife, but this article provides insight that clearly shows potential adverse underlying effects. It also provides validity to the way human and animal life are inter-related. The truth is, the ecosystem will also experience changes as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Yvonne! All political borders are arbitrary. Animals and people have been moving across them for thousands of years, and they will always do so. Creating an artificial wall will disrupt these natural patterns without solving the underlying problem, since people who are determined to enter the US will find ways to circumvent the wall. However, wild animals don’t have access to the same tools and problem-solving abilities as humans, so they will be much more adversely affected.

      Human and animal life are inextricably linked. What happens in our social systems impacts the natural world, and the natural world helps to shape our institutions and cultures. This can be both good and bad. When one element of society hordes resources and suppresses the rest, then non-human creatures suffer as well. But if we can learn to empathize with one another and embrace the inter-relatedness of life, then those attitudes will spill over into how we treat the natural world.

      Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s funny you say that, I’ve seen a few memes suggesting that the real purpose behind the wall is to keep Americans from fleeing to Mexico. Obviously that’s not true in a literal sense, but metaphorically speaking the wall would isolate us from the rest of the international community. Besides, the border with Mexico is already heavily fortified.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Tenemos unos cuantos de esos por aquí. La legitimidad está muy bien mientras estudias ciencias políticas en la universidad, pero creo que vamos a tener que aguantarlo los cuatro años, como poco. Porque claro, cuando este empiece la típica guerra de todo presidente americano, querrá terminarla, como todo presidente, y son otros cuatro.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I find many of the problems our politicians are faced with are “resolved” with short-term solutions. It helps for a while, but no one fully comprehends the long-term consequences until it is too late.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Walls seldom ever help. Just a little gap is all you need for immigrants to migrate. You are right. It will be a huge burden on tax payers and the ecosystem. I just read in the news today that pakistan has dug a 20m tunnel into India from the border……so yeah, if someone wants to migrate, there are ways to sneak in.

    Liked by 1 person

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