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Effect of Country Border Walls on Wildlife

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2651 words Published: 2nd Apr 2019

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Effects of Border Fences on Wild Animals


Due to increase of threats such as terrorism, immigration and refugee crisis over the world, many countries have constructed an emergency border security fence to regulate the flow of people entering the country.  This report touches on the trend of border fence construction in 2015 Europe and 2017 USA which highlights the effects that border fences has on the wildlife.  The fences are a major threat to wildlife as they cause mortality, restrict movement and access to food and water, and decrease population size.  However, using ecological knowledge and skillful politics; solutions such a transboundary cooperation and research into virtual fencing can be applied to  maintain a healthy wildlife that inhabits alongside borderlines.

Keywords: Donald Trump, USA, Mexico, Transboundary cooperation, border effects, wildlife, virtual fencing,


The use of fences is a popular technique to establish borders, stake ownerships and control livestock. The need to create ownership and establish territory, restricts the movement of animals (Sutherland , et al., 2017). Fencing of international boundaries is a constant issue for migrating animals; prevention of migration can interfere gaining access to resources, deplete vegetation, cause mortality and reduce effective population size. 

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Conserving the biodiversity on a constant developing planet involves applying ecological knowledge and skillful politics; which helps with aligning the best available knowledge with the appropriate management actions (Linnell, et al., 2016). Therefore, conservationist need to adjust their strategies to the prevailing opportunities and constraints in a continually changing environment (Linnell, et al., 2016). Politics is one of the main factors of the appearance of fencing; especially with the new elected president of the United States of America, Donald Trump. Trump promises to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to prevent any person entering the United States of America illegally; this will aim to prevent terrorist, drug smugglers and other criminals. Immigration, terror attacks and refugee crisis is also ongoing in Europe with many countries rushing to construct border security fencing to regulate the flow of people; this has resulted in the development of transboundary cooperation (Linnell, et al., 2016). Consequently, the increase of border fences present threats to the viability of the wild animal’s populations due to limiting genetic diversity and access to seasonal resources (Sutherland , et al., 2017).


Immigration will always be a popular topic within politics and everyday life. Currently world events such as elections in the United States of America and United Kingdom raises security border issues for wildlife. UK’s elections resulted in leaving the EU, also known and Brexit. One of the main campaigns to persuade people to vote was to development of stricter immigration policies. Fortunately, UK is an island which restricts the amount of border line techniques that can be implemented which do not harm wildlife on a mass scale. Similarly, to the UK, Donald Trump promised to provide stricter security border lines, which included building a wall along the borderline of Mexico and USA. Within just 76 days of being president, Donald Trump received 200 wall construction plans by firms who are listed as interested in the construction contract. Requirements for the border wall included: the wall being able to withstand sledgehammers and pickaxes of at least an hour and to be visually pleasing from the north side, to be 2,000 miles in length and 12 meters (40 feet) high, below ground sensors, coated in climb proof paint and watch towers (Michael, 2017). 

Planning requirements of Trump’s wall brings a lot of publicity and concern to human welfare but only a small population are considering the effects that this will have on the wildlife. The US-Mexico border is a dedicated ecosystem that is located between two biomes; with regular animal and bird migrations moving between north and south of the continent (Sullivan, 2016). It is home to a diverse population of wildlife such as: Saguaro cactus Jaguar (Panthera onca), Desert bighorn sheep, Greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), lesser roadrunner (Geococcyx velox), Arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus) and the Black-spotted newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis) that according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are listed as endangered (Geggel, 2017). Nevertheless, with lack of movement and migration, these species will restric mating pools resulting in decrease of genetic diversity which can affect the population persistence, evolutionary potential and individual fitness (Garner, et al., 2005). Although, the wall is currently in the production stage the fence which was built in 1994 has already caused harm to animals. Bison have been seen climbing over the barbed-wire fencing to gain access to food and water (Root, 2016). The fence has already reduced species range by 75% (Lasky, et al., 2011), this will be expected to increase once the reconstruction of the fence takes place.

A similar issue occurred in the summer of 2015. Europe experienced large-scale influx of refugees fleeing conflicts from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa (Linnell, et al., 2016). This caused mass construction of 178 km of border security fences, externally and internally of the EU, as an emergency measure. The fences were built without any environmental impact assessments on their placement and design; unfortunately, this increased the morality rates of red deer (Cervus elaphus) that were found entangled in the coils of barb-wire (Linnell, et al., 2016). Similarly, Razor-wire was used in Slovenia as a security fence to prevent refugees from entering the country after Hungary closed its border. This wired fencing, which runs alongside the country’s 670km border with Croatia, has extremely harsh and negative consequences on nature; such fencing has invaded preserved natural areas, which protects many rare and endangered species including: brown bear (Ursus arctos), the gray wolf (Canis lupus), and the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). (Linnell, et al., 2016). Although, the fence remains conservation status of large carnivore populations within the Dinaric Mountains should be readdressed and management modified (Linnell, et al., 2016) to prevent these species will experience isolation which will lead to rapid inbreeding (resulting in a genetic bottleneck), vulnerability to demographic stochasticity, hunting/culling and a mortality. If the fence remains then this will reverse decades of conservation efforts; this can be applied to US – Mexico wall. 


Transboundary cooperation

Throughout the 1980s to the beginning of the 21st century environmental awareness was high across the general population; with the end of the cold war and the start of a range of international legal instruments such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). International legal instruments resulted in the appearance of an increase of global efforts to conserve biodiversity, including the promoting sustainability (Linnell, et al., 2016). 

Global efforts to reduce pollutants and control climate change occurred once the realization to increase awareness on a larger scale with ecological processes, would require international cooperation (Linnell, et al., 2016). However, on a local scale there was an increase within international cooperation to conserve wildlife populations allowing, these populations to cross international borders. This resulted in the increase of transboundary protected areas which benefited from the removal of fences that had restricted wildlife from movement. This harmonization of legislations reestablished connectivity; resulting in recovery of large carnivore and herbivore populations in Europe (Linnell, et al., 2016). Western Europe saw expansion of wolves (Canis iupus) which have been previously absent for over half a century; thus, making them a flagship species for transboundary cooperation.  Large carnivores have benefitted from access across the increasing invisible borders; this success highlights the advantages for transboundary cooperation. This success has allowed for opportunities for transboundary cooperation to be applied outside of Europe (Linnell, et al., 2016). Although, transboundary cooperation has been successful for Europe it is impossible that it can be applied to USA-Mexico border wall, as this defeats the main objective of preventing people crossing the border. 

Monitoring devices

Monitoring devices may be an alternative to the wall. Advanced technology will be able to provide security while minimizing the impact on wildlife, for example virtual fencing. Virtual fencing is a method of controlling animals without ground-based fencing; these controls occur by altering animal’s behavior through cues (Anderson, 2007). The boundary can be formed by any geometrical shape, can be detected by an electronic system worn by the animal, but cannot been seen by the human eye (Anderson, 2007).

Virtual fencing was first patented in 1973 for controlling domestic dogs, which then developed into the use of controlling livestock in 1987. Bishop-Hurley, et al conducted a virtual fencing study with cattle were neck-collar and head-halter that carry elections, batteries and equipment providing stimuli, including audio vibration, light and electrical stimulation (Bishop-Hurley, et al., 2007). A radio and global positioning system (GPS) antennae were wired and attached collar to record the animal’s movements in reactions cues and to generate boundaries. The conclusion of the study showed success in eliciting a behavioural response from cattle with cues almost immediately. The experiment confirmed that sensory cues used in context of virtual fencing have potential for controlling cattle (Bishop-Hurley, et al., 2007). However, larger sample size need to be tested to acquire further understanding of behavioural variance (Bishop-Hurley, et al., 2007). 

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Although, the study concludes with recommendation that further controlled experimental work is need to quantify interactions between cures, consequences and cattle learning (Bishop-Hurley, et al., 2007). Development of this study could be implemented within the wild to replace wire fence use as it prevents injuries that may occur from fences or walls and can be a positive insight to population levels and help towards providing location coordinates that can be later analysed by geographic information system (GIS). 


Translocation is a common method of relocating animals from one area to another. Although, this is process is typically performed between zoos, game reserves and farms; this may be a beneficial way to ensure the success of population levels. As isolation to Mexico’s wildlife will be the result of Trump’s wall, this will provide opportunities for research both behavioural and biological. Researches may reveal after time that center areas of the isolated country will be beneficial as a rehabilitation sanctuary to increase population numbers of critically endangered species.

Although these solutions are validated and successful to many case studies. Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that no human will cross the border line, therefore subsequently making wildlife’s chance of ever crossing over the line near impossible.


Geopolitical change has occurred at such a fast rate that conservationist have been portrayed to have been left behind with creating solutions to the standard border technique of fencing. Although, transboundary cooperation has been advocated, it has been classed as less practical in areas of the world were the large-scale influx of people fleeing unstable countries due to conflict. There is a large population of animals that roam across border of Western and Central Europe. 

With further education and promotion of how fences effect wildlife, will hopefully change enforcers mindset of context-specific view of the motivations to build fences as well as the solutions to their side effects (Linnell, et al., 2016). Nevertheless, it seems that the reason to why fences continue to be constructed as a form a physical and psychological defense to threat. Through this report, it is clear to see that Europe and USA have issues with immigration and halting the access to their land means preventing the movement of terrorist, drug smugglers and refugees; thus, protecting the country. However, building fences that are created from wire will result in catastrophic decline in population numbers and genetic diversity with the increase of mortality. 

Solutions such as transboundary cooperation is fundamentally the easiest way to converse wildlife as evidence shows with the expansion of wolves in Western Europe. Although this cannot be applied to USA-Mexico border wall it is a positive solution that can increase populate numbers without any major interference. Other solutions such and virtual fencing needs further experimental research but could possibly be applied to future as a prevention to the classic wire fences.

On reflection, these issues highlight just how important it is to establish a clear communication between border security and wildlife conservationist from around the world. This communication is key to amend and improve solutions and to promote and increase the wildlife that surrounds borderlines.


  • Anderson, D. M., 2007. Virtual Fencing – past, present and future. The rangeland journal , 29(1), pp. 65-78.
  • Bishop-Hurley, G. J. et al., 2007. Virtual fencing applications: Implementing and testing an automated cattle control system. Computers and Electronics in Argriculture , 56(1), pp. 14-22.
  • Garner, A., Rachlow, J. L. & Hicks, J. F., 2005. Patterns of genetic diversity and its loss in mammalian populations. Conservation biology, 19(4), pp. 1215-1221.
  • Geggel, L., 2017. Trump’s Wall could have unexpected victims: wildlife. Live Science , 27 1.
  • Lasky, J. R., Jetz, W. & Keitt, T. H., 2011. Conservation biogeography of the US-Mexico border: A transcontinental risk assessment of barries to animal disperal. Diversity and Distributions, 17(4), pp. 673-687.
  • Linnell, J. D. C. et al., 2016. Border Securitiy Fencing and Widllife: The end of the Transboundary paradigm in Euraise?. PlOS Biology, 14(6).
  • Michael, T., 2017. Grand Designs Donald Trump’s Mexico border wall designs finally revealed – complete with bombproof concrete, tunnelling alarms and storage for nuclear waste. The Sun, 5 5.
  • Root, T., 2016. Border walls are bad for wildlife. The washington post, 1 11.
  • Sullivan, J., 2016. What would trumps wall mean for wildlife. BBC News , 1 9.
  • Sutherland , W. J. et al., 2017. a 2017 Horizon scan of emerging issues for global conservation and biological diversity. Trend in ecology & evolution, 31(1), pp. 31-40.


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