Border controls: Refugee fences fragment wildlife

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Erecting border fences in parts of Europe in response to the current massive influx of refugees may harm wildlife. The fences can kill animals by entangling them in razor wire and will jeopardize the hard-won connectivity of species populations.

The human toll of the refugee crisis deserves the highest political attention. At the same time, many of the fences could be in violation of commitments under international conservation agreements, such as the European Commission's Habitats Directive.

With the opening of political borders during the twentieth century, Europe's large fauna have rebounded. This success is a result of trans-boundary conservation projects backed by legislation and effective management.

However, refugee fences have proliferated along the borders of Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary, for example, and more are planned along the boundaries of Latvia and Estonia with Russia. These are likely to affect brown bear, wolf, lynx and red deer species.

Mitigation measures should include adapting national conservation-management schemes to ensure the survival of newly isolated animal populations; designing the structure and placement of fences to minimize their impact on wildlife; and removing the fences at the earliest opportunity.

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  1. *On behalf of 4 correspondents (see Supplementary information for full list).

    • John D. C. Linnell


  1. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway.

    • John D. C. Linnell

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  1. Report this comment #68657

    Mohammad Jahangiri said:

    All lives matter: animalia and plants

    The author asserts that "Erecting border fences... in response to the current massive influx of refugees may harm wildlife" as they "kill animals by entangling them in razor wire" and "jeopardize... connectivity of species populations" and that erecting these fences is in violation of the European Commission's Habitats Directive. While humans and animals share the same biological animal status (animalia) the author, surprisingly, exempts human beings from the same rights animals already hold. Although Homo Sapiens outperformed their animal counterparts in turning nature into a hellhole destroying human and animal habitats, flora, fauna, and biota, Homo sapiens and animals should be entitled the minimum rights as they share the world. Any convention that does not capture the same minimum basic rights of living for both human beings and animals on a par cannot be taken seriously. Assuming superiority Homo Sapiens have been making decisions for Nature with total disregard for both the other most endangered and endangering animal species, ourselves, the talking animal, and the other taciturn obedient animals, victims of the harsh, less fortunate hierarchy of evolution. Subject to facilitative anxiety (1-7), Homo Sapiens only transcend the other animals if they consider earnestly animal, plant, and human rights of living in unison and on a par in one single convention. As educators of the world, it's time we listened to both our fellow overachievers at the front row (Homo Sapiens) and the silent underachievers at the bottom of the class of natural world (plants and animals) with our hearts and in a unified convention. While I certainly admit that open borders and/or lack of border control are problematic for both species and I wonder how the honorable author can explain this in the context of Homo Sapiens' mobility rights as stipulated in Human Rights.

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    Mohammad Jahangiri,

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