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Howler monkeys are dropping dead from the trees in Mexico in brutal heat wave

MEXICO CITY (AP) — It’s so hot Mexico that howler monkeys fall dead from trees.

At least 138 medium-sized primates, known for their roaring calls, have been found dead in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco since May 16, according to the Usumacinta biodiversity conservation group. Others were rescued by locals, including five who were rushed to a local veterinarian who fought to save them.

“They arrived in critical condition, with dehydration and fever,” said Dr. Sergio Valenzuela. “They were as soft as rags. It was heatstroke.

While Mexico is brutal Heat wave linked to the deaths of at least 26 people since March, veterinarians and rescuers say it has killed dozens, if not hundreds, of howler monkeys. On Tuesday, about a third of the country saw maximum temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the town of Tecolutilla, Tabasco, the dead monkeys began showing up on Friday, when a local volunteer fire and rescue team showed up with five of the creatures in the bed of a truck.

Howler monkeys sit in a cage at a veterinary clinic after being rescued in extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Luis Sanchez)

Normally quite intimidating, howler monkeys are muscular and some can measure up to 90 centimeters (3 feet), with tails just as long. Some males weigh more than 13.5 kilograms (30 pounds) and can live up to 20 years. They are equipped with large jaws and a fearsome set of teeth and fangs. But they are best known for their lion roars, which hide their size.

“They (the volunteers) asked for help, they asked me if I could look at some of the animals they had in their truck,” Valenzuela said Monday. “They said they had no money and asked if I could do it for free.”

The vet put ice on their soft little hands and feet and hooked them up to IVs containing electrolytes.

So far, the monkeys appear to be on the mend. Once listless and easy to manipulate, they are now in cages in Valenzuela’s office. “They are recovering. They’re aggressive…they bite again,” he said, noting that it’s a healthy sign for these usually stealthy creatures.

Most are not so lucky. Wildlife biologist Gilberto Pozo counted about 138 dead or dying animals on the ground under the trees. Mortality began around May 5 and peaked over the weekend.

“They were falling from the trees like apples,” Pozo said. “They were in a state of severe dehydration and died within minutes.” Already weakened, Pozo says, falls of several tens of meters (yards) inflict additional damage that often finishes off the apes.

Pozo attributes the death to a “synergy” of factors, including high heat, drought, wildfires and logging that deprives the monkeys of water, shade and the fruits they eat, while noting that a pathogen, disease or other factor cannot yet be detected. be excluded.

For residents of the steamy, swampy, jungle-covered state of Tabasco, the howler monkey is an iconic and cherished species; local people say the monkeys tell them the time of day by howling at dawn and dusk.

Pozo said local people – who he knows through his work with the Usumacinta Biodiversity Conservation Group – have been trying to help the monkeys they see around their farms. But he notes that this could be a double-edged sword.

“They were falling from the trees, and people were displaced, and they went to help the animals, they distributed water and fruit to them,” Pozo said. “They want to take care of them, mainly baby monkeys, and adopt them.”

“But no, the truth is that babies are very delicate, they cannot be in a house where there are dogs or cats, because they contain pathogens that can potentially be fatal for howler monkeys,” a he declared, emphasizing that they must be rehabilitated. and released into the wild.

Pozo’s group has set up special recovery centers for the monkeys (it currently houses five monkeys, but birds and reptiles have also been affected) and is trying to build a team of specialist veterinarians to provide the primates with the care they need. they need.

The federal government belatedly acknowledged the problem on Monday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador saying he heard about it on social media. He praised Valenzuela for his efforts and said the government would seek to support this work.

A soldier removes the body of a howler monkey that died in extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, May 21, 2024. Dozens of howler monkeys were found dead in the coastal state Gulf while others were rescued by residents who rushed them to a local veterinarian.  (AP Photo/Luis Sánchez)

A soldier removes the body of a howler monkey that died in extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Luis Sanchez)

López Obrador acknowledged the heat problem – “I’ve never felt it as bad as this” – but he also has plenty of human issues to deal with.

By May 9, at least nine cities in Mexico had set temperature records, with Ciudad Victoria in the border state of Tamaulipas recording a scorching 47°C.

With below average precipitation across most of the country so far this year, lakes and dams dry upAnd water reserves are running out. Authorities had to truck water to everything from hospitals to fire crews. Low levels at hydroelectric dams have contributed to power outages in parts of the country.

Consumers are also feeling the heat. On Monday, national convenience store chain OXXO — the nation’s largest — announced it was limiting ice cream purchases to just two or three bags per customer in some locations.

“In a period of high temperatures, OXXO is taking measures to ensure the supply of products to our customers,” parent company FEMSA said in a statement. “The limits on the sale of bagged ice are intended to ensure that more customers can purchase this product.”

But for monkeys, it’s not a question of comfort, but of life and death.

“This is a sentinel species,” Pozo said, referring to the canary effect in a coal mine where one species can tell a lot about an ecosystem. “That tells us something about what’s happening with climate change.”

A howler monkey sits in a cage with other people at a veterinary clinic after being rescued amid extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Dozens of Howler monkeys were found dead in the Gulf Coast state while others were rescued by locals who rushed them to a local veterinarian.  (AP Photo/Luis Sánchez)

A howler monkey sits in a cage with other people at a veterinary clinic after being rescued in extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Luis Sanchez)

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

News Source : apnews.com
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