A butterfly sanctuary caught in the crossfire of polarizing conspiracy theories on illegal immigration to the United States said it will shut its doors Thursday, citing security concerns after receiving threats from supporters of former president Donald Trump.
TRUMP’S WALL THREATENED BUTTERFLIES’ HABITAT
The National Butterfly Center in Texas, located on the banks of the Rio Grande that separates the United States from Mexico, had filed a complaint to block the construction of the border wall that became a centrepiece of Trump’s presidency, saying it threatened the winged insects’ habitat.
The private sanctuary’s gardens are home to more than 200 species of butterfly as well as bobcats, coyotes, peccaries, armadillos and Texas tortoises.
But it will now be closed until further notice because “the safety of our staff and visitors is our primary concern,” Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association, which runs the organization, said in a statement Wednesday.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES TARGET BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY
Conspiracy theories targeting the sanctuary – which have been linked to far-right group QAnon by US media – have claimed it was helping to bring illegal migrants to America.
The facility already closed between 28 and 30 January because of “credible threats” related to an event held by supporters of the former president in nearby McAllen, Glassberg said.
BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY EXECUTIVE STILL WARY OF THREATS
“We don’t think the threat has passed,” the sanctuary’s executive director Marianna Trevino Wright told AFP on Wednesday, citing repeated “provocations” from these individuals.
Wright said she feared the allegations against the centre would eventually push someone to “take action.”
“We look forward to reopening, soon, when the authorities and the professionals who are helping us get past this situation give us the green light,” Glassberg said in the statement, noting that employees would continue to receive their salaries during the closure.
The QAnon far-right conspiracy movement began in 2017 with claims that the Democrats ran a satanic child-kidnapping sex-trafficking ring, and it has been blamed for fuelling a riot at the US Capitol on 6 January last year.
Trump has never condemned the movement and even fed QAnon fever before the US presidential election in 2020, floating his own conspiracy theories about a planeload of black-clad saboteurs disrupting his party convention.