Extreme Heat in Mexico Causes Death of Howler Monkeys

Extreme heat in Mexico is causing howler monkeys to fall dead from trees.

World News

Extreme Heat in Mexico Causes Howler Monkeys to Drop Dead

By Jill Lorentz

May 22, 2024

108

The scorching heat wave that's been sweeping across Mexico has claimed an unexpected victim: howler monkeys. Known for their distinctive roars, at least 138 of these midsize primates have been found dead in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco since May 16, according to the Biodiversity Conservation of the Usumacinta group. Some were rescued by local residents and taken to a veterinarian, where they arrived in critical condition, suffering from dehydration and fever. 
 
Mexico's brutal heatwave has already been linked to the deaths of at least 26 people since March, but this is the first time it has had such a devastating impact on wildlife. Around a third of Mexico experienced highs reaching up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday alone. 
 
In Tecolutilla, Tabasco, locals started discovering dead monkeys last Friday when volunteer firefighters came across five lifeless bodies in their truck bed. 
 
Howler monkeys are typically intimidating creatures known for their muscular physique and lion-like roars, which contradict their actual size. They can grow as tall as three feet, with tails just as long. Males weigh over thirty pounds and live up to twenty years. 
 
Dr. Sergio Valenzuela was one of many who offered help without any monetary expectations when volunteers approached him, asking if he could examine some animals they had discovered during rescue efforts. 
 
Valenzuela immediately got down to work, trying his best possible treatment methods, including putting ice on their limp hands and feet, while administering IV drips filled with electrolytes in order to combat severe dehydration caused by extreme temperatures. Thankfully, there have been signs indicating recovery amongst those rescued so far; once listless creatures, they now show aggression again, which is considered healthy behavior within furtive species like howler monkeys. 
 
However, not all are fortunate enough. Wildlife biologist Gilberto Pozo reported finding approximately 138 animals either dead or dying under trees around the same period. Die-off began hitting peak levels over the weekend. "They were falling out of trees like apples," Pozo described the grim scene. The monkeys were severely dehydrated and died within minutes after falling. 
 
Pozo believes these deaths can be attributed to a combination of factors, including high heat, drought, forest fires, and logging activities that deprive them of water, shade, and fruit—their key sources of sustenance. 
 
For residents in Tabasco, where lush jungles dominate the landscape, howler monkeys are considered cherished species, often telling locals time by making loud calls at dawn and dusk. 
Local people have tried helping these animals around farms, but this could prove fatal, especially for baby monkeys, who are very delicate and cannot survive in domestic environments due to potential pathogens carried by other household pets. 
 
In response to this mass wildlife catastrophe, the Usumacinta Group has set up special recovery stations for affected animals while trying to organize a team of specialized veterinarians to provide the necessary care they need during critical periods. 
Late recognition from the federal government came when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged the problem on social media, congratulating Valenzuela for his efforts and saying he would seek support for work providing much-needed relief measures. 
 
But despite all the human problems that the president faces, he too admitted the severity of the current heatwave, stating, "I have never felt it as bad as this." 
 
By May 9, nine cities across Mexico had set temperature records, with Ciudad Victoria border state Tamaulipas clocking a whopping 117 degrees Fahrenheit. 
 
With below-average rainfall throughout the year, lakes dams are drying up, water supplies are running out, authorities are trucking everything, hospitals are firefighting teams are coping with crises, leading to power blackouts in some parts of the of the country due to low levels of hydroelectric dams. 
 
Consumers are also feeling the impact nationwide chain OXXO convenience stores, the nation's largest, announced limiting purchases to just two or three bags per customer. Certain places ensure a larger number of customers can buy products during high demand periods brought about by extreme temperatures. 


But the ultimate toll falls upon innocent creatures like howler monkeys, who do not question comfort but rather the life-death situation unfolding before their eyes due to the to the adverse effects of climate change taking place globally today.This is a sentinel species," Pozo pointed out, referring to the to the canary-in-a-coal-mine effect, where one species can indicate the health of an entire ecosystem. "It is telling us something about what is happening with climate change."


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