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Building Momentum for Wildlife Crossings in Mexico

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Four jaguars in the state of Sinaloa. A black bear in Sonora. A margay in Nayarit. These are just a few of the many, many fauna killed by vehicles in Mexico, reports of which constantly find their way to social media, news outlets, and of course my email, Twitter and WhatsApp accounts. Mexico is growing increasingly concerned about the issue of wildlife killed by cars, whether it’s large animals on federal highways or—just this week—small turtles on the outskirts of my hometown, Hermosillo.

This photo shows a bald man in a dark suit from the waist up, standing behind a podium and speaking into a microphone.
Congressman Germán Ralis speaks at the forum on wildlife crossings. Photo: Cámara de Diputados

Lawmakers in Mexico are starting to pay attention, as I wrote in a previous blog post. Last month, Congressman Germán Ralis (Movimiento Ciudadano – Jalisco) introduced a bill that would make wildlife crossings mandatory on all federal highways of Mexico. Congress also formally requested the creation of a legally binding standard for wildlife crossings by Mexico’s highest transportation authority, the Secretariat of Communications and Transport (SCT).

The bill was voted on Commission on Tuesday and passed with some minor improvements, meaning it must now make its way through a vote by the full lower chamber and then move on to the Senate before becoming a law. While this looks like it’s going to be a long and tiresome procedure, we will tirelessly advocate for the bill’s passage.

This 3-D model shows a wildlife bridge connecting two wild areas over a highway.
Wildlands Network’s 3-D rendering of a wildlife overpass on Highway 2. If the bill passes, many of Mexico’s highways could look like this. Photo: Pedro Capdeveille

Building Ties for Connectivity

Just last week, Wildlands Network was invited to speak about wildlife crossings in the Chamber of Deputies (equivalent to the United States House of Representatives) in Mexico City. In a forum organized by Congressman Ralis, I joined other experts from the non-profit organization Grupo Efferus, and authorities from SCT and Mexico’s federal environmental agency SEMARNAT, to present an introduction to the need for and basic concepts of wildlife crossings.

Personnel from SCT were also in attendance, and they presented the work they’ve done to build some initial crossings in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, including underpasses for jaguars and elevated lines for howler monkeys. Preliminary results are encouraging.

A man stands on a stage, holding a microphone, while three men sit on cushy red chairs on the stage behind him.
Mexico Progam Director Juan Carlos Bravo speaks at the forum about wildlife crossings. Photo: Gustavo Ortiz

During the presentation, Wildlands Network brought to light the need for wildlife crossings in the Sky Islands region of Sonora, where jaguars, black bears, cougars and ocelots are among the many species vulnerable to wildlife-vehicle collisions. We also discussed the benefits of focusing initial efforts on a flagship species, like we’re doing for the jaguar and then moving on to understand the needs of other regional species, which may not benefit from jaguar crossings, such as amphibians and fish.

As part of the forum’s activities, participants split into working groups to evaluate next steps to make an effective nation-wide standard for wildlife crossings and to map out what other legal instruments are available to foster the construction of more such structures. These exercises allowed us to come up with ideas to advance a culture of wildlife crossings among road engineers throughout Mexico, while laws and legal standards coalesce.

Particularly encouraging is how this and other events are bringing together specialists throughout Mexico who care about wildlife crossings and are making significant contributions to the field of Road Ecology: Grupo Efferus, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco, and the Instituto de Ecología. This nation-wide community of wildlife crossing advocates is growing, and I sense it will soon become a force to reckon with in Congress and other fronts, where key decisions may be made on the future of habitat connectivity and wildlife survival.

Take Action to Support Wildlife Crossings in Mexico

Learn more about the effort we’re leading in the borderlands of Sonora, through collaborations with SCT, to establish wildlife crossings along Mexico’s Highway 2. These efforts have resulted in modified routes and the identification of priority locations for new wildlife-friendly infrastructure.

You can also take action by clicking the button below to send an email to the members of the Chamber of Deputies, letting them know you support the bill. Feel free to personalize the email in your own words.

Take Action

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