Changing Planet

Proposed US-Mexico Border Wall Will Have Impacts on Wild Cats and Other Wildlife

In the wake of President Trump’s executive order advancing his administration’s intention to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, issued the following statement:

Panthera opposes the construction of a border wall that would disturb the natural movement and dispersal patterns of wildlife, including cougars, ocelots and jaguars, between Mexico and the United States. Fencing has already broken natural connections between wild cat populations in some areas of the border. Further fortification, as proposed by the Administration, would fragment wildlife populations already under pressure.

“Apex predators like wild cats are among the first species to disappear when humans disrupt and fragment natural landscapes, leading to impoverished ecosystems with impacts on both wildlife and people,” said Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera. “The unique habitats of the borderlands were once inhabited by five species of wild cats. Only two, the cougar and bobcat, are still relatively secure on both sides of the border.”

Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, who envisions a single connected jaguar population throughout its remaining range, added: “Largest of American cats, the jaguar once roamed a connected landscape from the southern United States to Argentina. Large-scale development and agriculture have shrunk the jaguar’s range by over 40%, and this iconic species no longer has resident breeding populations in the United States. In contrast, Mexico has promoted a safe haven of critical jaguar habitat only 100 miles from the border—a few days walk for a wandering cat. The protection of this source population has resulted in some dispersing male jaguars moving into the US. The only hope for natural re-colonization in the U.S., however remote, hinges on maintaining this core population to the south, and its connectivity.”

“Populations of wild cats need freedom to roam,” Rabinowitz continued. “It’s imperative that populations of jaguars, bobcats, cougars, and ocelots are not further threatened by an insurmountable barrier that disrupts their natural movement patterns. Panthera calls upon the President and his administration to work with scientists to reduce serious wildlife impacts of a border wall and to conduct the necessary environmental impact assessments without delay.”

About the Jaguar Corridor

Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is the only conservation program to date which seeks to protect jaguars across their entire six million km2 range. In partnership with governments, corporations and local communities, Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations in human landscapes from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. Learn more.

Dr. Luke Hunter is President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera.

Dr. Luke Hunter is the President of Panthera ( and has worked on the ecology and conservation of wild carnivores since 1992. His current projects include assessing the effects of sport hunting on leopards and lions, working with teams in the Brazilian Pantanal to reduce the conflict between ranchers and jaguars, and the first intensive study of Persian leopards and the last surviving Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Hunter supervises graduate students working on carnivores around the world including the first comprehensive studies on some little-known species such as African golden cats and Sunda clouded leopards. Luke Hunter has contributed to over 140 scientific papers and popular articles, and has published seven books including ‘Cheetah’ (2003), ‘Cats of Africa: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation’ (2006), ‘A Field Guide to Carnivores of the World’ (2011) and "Wild Cats of the World" (2015). Photo by Steve Winter.
  • Daniel Rosso

    I never thought of the ecological impact that Donald Trump’s wall would have on the natural movements of large cat species and other wildlife. I am, however, in support of Trump’s plan for preventing illegal immigrants from reaching the United States of America. My proposed plan for satisfying the needs of local wildlife in the region and to satisfy the necessity for keeping illegal Mexicans from overriding our border line is to have strong patrol lines of U.S. soldiers monitoring the border of America. If a wall is built, perhaps there should be areas in the wall where jaguars could have a safe journey across the U.S./Mexican border. I do understand the dire need for conserving large cat populations in their natural habitats, but we as American citizens must come first before any animals. God created man above the animal and that is my personal philosophy in the matter. If I had a choice to protect a human being or a tiger who were both falling off a cliff, I would choose to save human being in every situation. If this is a situation where neither animal needs nor human needs can both be met, then I will stand on the side of the America’s people. I do think that it would be very sad to lose all of that habitat for such magnificent creatures, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. If there can be a compromise made between humans and animals in this situation, then I am all ears.

  • Daniel Rosso

    Maybe I should clarify what I said on Saturday. I do love big cats. They have always been my favorite animals since I was a young kid, but I also understand the need for protecting human rights and at this particular point in history American rights. We need a means to protect the United States border from the threat of illegal immigration, and the wall that Donald Trump has proposed is the best idea thus far presented. There is hope for the jaguars, however. I think that the best thing for these animals would be focusing our conservation efforts in the habitats where they are currently most abundant: South America, Central America, and Mexico. If we can reintroduce them into the United States, the wall will not be a dangerous obstruction. We could easily fly jaguar cubs via airplane or helicopter into the areas of America where they can survive. This way, both the jaguars and the Americans will be satisfied. I love jaguars and i wish to do anything that I can to protect them, but I am first and foremost an American citizen and my people and their needs must come first before the jaguars, if no reliable compromise can be made.

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