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Wolves and Jaguars Are Already Threatened by Border Razor Wire As Trump Vetoes Bid to Block Emergency Wall Funding

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A metal fence marked with the U.S. Border Patrol sign prevents people to get close to the barbed/concertina wire covering the U.S./Mexico border fence, in Nogales, Arizona, on Feb. 9. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday, overturning Congress' vote to block his national emergency declaration to fund a border wall that environmental advocates say would put 93 endangered species at risk. However, the president's decision came the same day as an in-depth report from UPI revealing how razor wire placed at the border in the last four months already threatens wildlife.


Trump's veto follows votes by both the House and Senate to overturn his national emergency to access military funding for the wall after Congress refused to grant him the $5.7 billion in wall funding he requested, BBC News explained. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote on overriding his veto March 26; however, it is unlikely the Senate will muster the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, there are several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the emergency declaration, including one brought by the Sierra Club.

"The Sierra Club is committed to fighting these border walls and this abuse of communities, immigrants, and our natural environment through every step of Trump's backwards, cruel agenda," Sierra Club Director of Federal Policy Melinda Pierce said in a statement. "We will continue to challenge this fake national emergency and share the real stories and voices of border communities who know the only crisis is the one the Trump administration is creating."

However, while the fight continues surrounding future border wall construction, barriers already in place are causing harm. Since November, troops have laid 210 miles of razor wire along the border to deter people from crossing, UPI reported Friday. Wildlife advocates say this poses a risk to endangered Mexican gray wolves and jaguars who need to cross freely in order to hunt and mate.

"It's a decidedly effective barrier. The wire has razor sharp edges. It would stop people and animals. It's ugly that we have gotten to this point," Montana Democratic State Sen. Mike Phillips, who is also a conservation scientist and director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, told UPI.

Phillips said he had worked to save the Mexican gray wolf for 30 years. There are only 114 of them left in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S., which means it is very important that they can cross the border to find mates and maintain genetic diversity.

"When species numbers are so low, that's when connectivity becomes really important," Phillips explained.

The wire also impedes jaguars, which are also extremely rare. Only 80 to 120 of them live along the Arizona border, according to Defenders of Wildlife, and the health of that population is essential if they are to recover in the U.S.

"Any border barrier creates a death zone around it and poses a danger to people and wildlife," Defenders of Wildlife Southwest Program Director Bryan Bird said. "Wildlife are going to end up entangled in the wire, meaning more deaths. In the case of endangered wildlife, we don't have the luxury of losing even one."

Environmentalists and local officials said that the wire had been installed without any public impact.

"The U.S. government has a way of doing things without letting locals know," Santa Cruz County, Arizona Sheriff Tony Estrada, who had wire placed in his jurisdiction without prior approval, told UPI. "They don't consider touching base. They don't ask for opinions. They are afraid to hear we won't want wire. So they just go ahead and do it."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has also proven unresponsive to requests to remove the wire, such as one issued by Texas Democratic Representative Vicente Gonzalez in December of 2018.

"There are currently no plans to remove the concertina wire," CBP said, according to UPI.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.