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Watch Bulldozers Plow Protected Cacti for Trump's Border Wall

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Watch Bulldozers Plow Protected Cacti for Trump's Border Wall
Kevin Dahl who works at the National Parks Conservation Association shot the video. Kevin Dahl / NPCA / Screenshot

There is an outcry in Arizona after footage captured border wall construction bulldozers plowing over iconic cacti that are protected in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument — a monument created to protect Organ Pipe and Saguaro cacti, as Newsweek reported.


The video depicts the bulldozers running roughshod over the national monument and clearing saguaros in a rush to build a costly and unnecessary wall on the U.S. southern border.

"Saguaros are being bulldozed for the #BorderWall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument," wrote Laiken Jordahl, Border Lands Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, on Twitter with a video of the destruction. "Trump's reckless border hysteria is destroying our environment and killing the very species this national monument was designated to protect."

Kevin Dahl who works at the National Parks Conservation Association shot the video. He told Newsweek that he was heartbroken and outraged by what he witnessed.

"At that point, what they were doing was destruction, not construction," he said.

The actions Dahl witnessed stand in sharp contrast to a video posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that shows an appropriate relocation process, where a cactus is carefully removed with designated extraction tools, as opposed to a bulldozer plowing it over, according to Newsweek.

"We're watching the destruction of Arizona's most iconic species to make way for a useless border wall that most Arizonans oppose," Jordahl wrote to EcoWatch.

Dahl watched the crews level saguaros and several other desert plants and then pile them up into slash piles. The destruction he witnessed was on the west side of the park where a 78-mile strip of Trump's wall is slated to stand.

However, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which runs up against the border with Mexico already has a significant amount of fencing. As the Earther blog at Gizmodo reported, that includes five miles of fence to keep pedestrians out and another 25 miles of posts that act as vehicle barriers. Earther classified the actions as "wanton destruction."

"The Department of Homeland Security says they're relocating cacti, but the videos we shot at the construction site tell a very different story: one of flattened earth and total devastation," Jordahl wrote to EcoWatch. "Even if they do relocate some specimens, any remediation will pale in comparison to the severe and lasting damage done by the wall, stadium lights and enforcement zone."

While the current fencing respects the wildlife and the migratory patterns of native desert animals, Trump's border wall does not.

"So the wall that's currently under construction is 30 feet tall it's made up of a 6 foot wide steel bollards and they're drilling 10 feet into the ground in order to set the foundation for this wall and…will stretch for almost 50 miles," Jordahl said, as NBC Tucson reported. "So that means any migrating wildlife will be completely unable to make it around this barrier."

The National Park Service and Customs and Border Patrol offered a statement to Newsweek that ran counter to what Jordahl said, stating that they have ensured there will be "locations for small wildlife passages within the new border barrier that would allow for the continued passage of small mammals."

However, that seems like a dubious claim to environmentalists who have seen the Trump administration trounce over environmental regulations and manipulate environmental impact statements.

Running roughshod over the fauna in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument presents another set of problems since the site is both a U.S. National Monument and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The park is also sacred land to Indigenous groups like the Tohono O'odham Nation, as Dahl told Newsweek.

"The Tohomo O'odham [Nation], in their taxonomy of life saguaros are very close to humans," Dahl told Earther. "And you know, they have a majestic presence, they are the iconic symbol of this part of the world. You know you're someplace different when you're in a saguaro forest."

Jordahl summed it up succinctly on Twitter.

"Trump's #BorderWall is under construction through the most pristine Sonoran Desert ecosystem anywhere on the planet — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument," he wrote. "Endangered species, Indigenous sacred sites & wilderness lands are being destroyed before our eyes."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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