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Could Trump's Border Wall Threaten These Fierce Desert Wildcats?

Trump's wall is designed to stop the flow of people, but what will it mean for wildlife?

Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency to access money to build his "big beautiful wall" on the US-Mexico border.

Trump has framed the need for the wall as nothing short of a national emergency. He says it's in the national interest to stop people entering the US from the south to prevent the growth of crime and the illegal drug trade.

But for wildlife conservationists, the emergency facing America is one of vastly different proportions.

READ  MORE: Donald Trump To Declare National State Of Emergency Over Border Wall

US-Mexico Border Wall
The border wall poses a number of threats to wildlife. Image: Getty Images.

More than 200 species of animals are set to have their habitats disturbed -- from insects to birds to large carnivores.

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is home to more than 60 varieties of butterfly making it the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the US.

The Center is renowned for its large population of Monarch butterflies on the banks of the Rio Grande.

In December 2018, the US supreme court issued a ruling allowing the Trump administration to waive 28 federal laws so it could construct the wall.

Critically for wildlife conservationists, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act were two of the laws waived.

The ruling allows for construction of a new section of the wall which will travel right through the National Butterfly Center. According to the Center, this will likely affect everything from butterfly habitats to their ability to mate.

"[The border wall will] eradicate an enormous amount of native habitat, including host plants for butterflies, breeding and feeding areas for wildlife, and lands set aside for conservation of endangered and threatened species," the Center's website reads.

The Center also warns constructing the wall too close to the Rio Grande could result in flooding the land up to 3.2 kilometres behind the wall.

Butterflies Impacted By Border Wall
A list of how the border wall could impact butterfly species. Image: National Butterfly Center.

Human structures like walls have long impacted animal welfare.

"A wall creates an artificial barrier between two locations, so the species cannot get over it. If you are looking at ground-dwelling species, it will impact migration, food and foraging. The animal is restricted to a certain area or it is restricted to one side of that particular wall," environmental biologist James Simpson told 10 daily.

Simpson also said large, physical structures can affect an animal's natural instincts, as they conflict with the environment it was raised in.

He said while animals can adapt over time, drastic environmental changes fundamentally hamper their ability to survive in the short-term.

Ocelots are one of the animals whose ability to move around for food and mates will be compromised.

"It can also confuse animals when you look at the sounds they make and their mating calls, it's disrupting the natural acoustics," Simpson said.

"I just came back from Arizona, which is right where the wall is going to go through. You have vast flat plains, then you have mountainous terrain and then you have vast flat plains again, so certain species would climb up high for a vantage point and safety.

"If there isn't a wall there, and then they come back a few weeks later and there is a wall there... it's going to be hard for the animal to live and adapt to the environment."

READ MORE: Trump's Wall On The USA-Mexico Border

Border Wall At Arizona
The border wall in Arizona along the mountainous terrain. Image: Getty Images

According to the Southwest Environmental Center in New Mexico, dozens of species will be affected by the construction of the wall. These include ocelots, mountain lions, deer and bears.

"In recent years, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built almost 700 miles [ 1120 km] of fencing along the border. The fence will be a potential disaster for wildlife, blocking their movement and preventing access to the resources they need for their survival," the Center's website reads.

These concerns have been supported by a number of studies highlighting the ways in which the US-Mexico border wall could threaten the survival of numerous plant and animal species.

One study from Stanford University said the land surrounding the wall is biologically rich and a man-made barrier will fundamentally impact its natural ecosystem.

"Borderlands are synonymous with desolation, but the Mexico-US divide is something altogether different," Rob Jordan from Stanford Woods Institute For The Environment wrote in the 2018 study.

"Physical barriers prevent or discourage animals from accessing food, water, mates and other critical resources by disrupting annual or seasonal migration and dispersal routes.

"Work on border walls, fences and related infrastructure, such as roads, fragments habitat, erodes soil, changes fire regimes and alters hydrological processes by causing floods."

Mexico Border Wall Animals
The border wall region is home to more than 1,500 native animal species. Image: Getty Images.

Conservation groups, human rights and immigration groups are not succumbing to the pressures of federal immigration policy without a fight.

Multiple organisations have started fundraising to protect human and animal rights by appealing to the public for donations. Some groups are evening suing the Trump administration, claiming human and animal rights violations.

AP reported some environmental lawyers are preparing to sue the Trump administration for waiving environmental laws to build certain sections of the wall.

House Democrats are also expected to sue Trump, claiming he is deliberately circumventing government to build the wall.

Back in 2018, the Southwest Environmental Center also filed a lawsuit against Trump for waiving the environmental laws.

Trump's wall isn't without its supporters.

One army veteran raised more than $2 million in just four days to help Trump pay for the wall. Trump initially demanded more than $5 billion (AUD $7 billion) for the construction of the wall.

READ MORE: Army Veteran Crowdfunds Millions To Build Trump's Wall

Featured Image: Getty Images. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au