BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Borderlands -

In 2015, con­struc­tion be­gan on more bor­der walls world­wide than at any other time in recorded hu­man his­tory. Bar­ri­ers be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine, Burma and Bangladesh, Mex­ico and Gu­atemala, Turkey and Syria have all gone up in the past few years, largely mo­ti­vated by fears of ter­ror­ism and in­creas­ing hu­man mi­gra­tion. A to­tal of 63 walls were built or un­der con­struc­tion by the end of 2015, com­pared with fewer than 20 when the Ber­lin Wall came down in 1989. Here are four ex­am­ples of how bar­ri­ers are af­fect­ing wildlife in Europe, Asia and Aus­trala­sia.


Rea­son for bor­der: Dur­ing the Cold War, the Iron Cur­tain was heav­ily guarded and elec­tri­fied. Im­pact on wildlife: The Iron Cur­tain fell over 25 years ago but red deer on the bor­der be­tween the Czech Repub­lic and Ger­many still do not cross the di­vide, which is now for­est and open land with no bar­rier. A study of 300 deer found the an­i­mals on each side of the bor­der main­tained old bound­aries and were com­pletely sep­a­rate pop­u­la­tions.

2 MON­GO­LIA/CHINA 4,710km fence

Rea­son for bor­der: The orig­i­nal fence was built fol­low­ing a bor­der treaty in 1962. In 2008, the Chi­nese built a 100km fence to pro­tect live­stock from wolves. Im­pact on wildlife: Khu­lan, or Mon­go­lian wild asses, were fit­ted with GPS col­lars in a 2013 study, which demon­strated that the fence pre­sented an ab­so­lute bar­rier in the south-east Gobi Desert. While the bar­rier re­stricts wild ass move­ment and mi­gra­tion be­tween coun­tries, the bor­der area has be­come a graz­ing refuge for the an­i­mals in harsh win­ters.

3 CROA­TIA/SLOVE­NIA 670km ra­zor-wire fence

Rea­son for bor­der: Re­duce flow of asy­lum seek­ers from Syria and Iraq. Im­pact on wildlife: 349km of the fence cuts through the Di­naric Moun­tains that con­tain one of the most im­por­tant wolf pop­u­la­tions in Europe. Out of 10 wolf packs, five have their home ranges in both coun­tries. While some wolves have shown an abil­ity to cross, there is no guar­an­tee they will re­main con­nected with their core pop­u­la­tion in the south. There is a chance the pop­u­la­tions will be­come iso­lated and in­breed.

4 AUS­TRALIA 5,531km fence, Queens­land

Rea­son for bor­der: To pro­tect do­mes­tic sheep from dingo pre­da­tion. Im­pact on wildlife: The north-western side of the fence ha­bit­u­ates a larger dingo pop­u­la­tion and sub­se­quently kan­ga­roo and emu num­bers have fallen due to pre­da­tion. But fewer din­goes on the south­ern side has led to an in­crease in kan­ga­roos there. Where din­goes have been ex­ter­mi­nated al­to­gether, a rise in num­bers of red foxes (an in­tro­duced species) has led to a re­duc­tion in small na­tive mam­mals, in­clud­ing bandi­coots.

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