Locals Report Monkey Deaths During Heat Wave in Mexico

22 May 2024

An environmental group is warning that the hot weather in Mexico is among the causes of many deaths of howler monkeys.

Howler monkeys are big primates known for the loud sound they make.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the group Biodiversity Conservation of The Usumacinta said that at least 138 howler monkeys have been found dead. The deaths have taken place in the state of Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico. Local people rescued others, including five that were rushed to a local veterinarian who tried to save them.

A veterinarian feeds a young howler m<I><I>onkey</I></I> rescued amid extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Luis Sanchez)
A veterinarian feeds a young howler monkey rescued amid extremely high temperatures in Tecolutilla, Tabasco state, Mexico, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Luis Sanchez)

"They arrived in critical condition, with dehydration and fever," said Sergio Valenzuela. "It was a heatstroke."

Mexico's severe heat wave has been connected to the deaths of at least 26 people since March. Veterinarians and rescuers said it has killed tens or even hundreds of howler monkeys. The AP said that one third of the country reported high temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.

In the town of Tecolutilla, Tabasco, dead monkeys started appearing in recent weeks. A local volunteer fire and rescue team recently brought in five of the creatures. Valenzuela told the AP that the volunteers "asked for help, they asked if I could examine some of the animals they had in their truck."

The veterinarian put ice on their limp hands and feet. They were given fluid with nutrients. The monkeys appeared to be recovering. "They're recovering. They're aggressive...they're biting again," he said, noting that is a healthy sign.

Most are not so lucky. Wildlife biologist Gilberto Pozo counted about 138 of the animals dead or dying on the ground under trees. The deaths started in early May.

"They were in a state of severe dehydration, and they died within a matter of minutes," Pozo said. Already weakened, the falls from dozens of meters high cause more damage that often finishes the monkeys off.

Pozo said there were several causes for the deaths, including high heat, drought, forest fires and logging. All of that leads to less water, shade, and fruit for the monkeys to eat. Pozo noted that it is also possible a disease is causing the deaths.

Pozo said the local people have tried to help the monkeys, especially babies. They see the young animals around their farms. But he said that can be dangerous.

The "babies are very delicate, they can't be in a house where there are dogs or cats" because they have diseases that can be deadly for howler monkeys, he said. After the monkeys recover, they must be released into the wild, Pozo added.

Pozo's group has set up special recovery stations for monkeys. It currently holds five monkeys, but birds and reptiles have also been affected. He is also trying to organize a team of specialized veterinarians to give the primates the care they need.

Below-average rainfall across the country so far this year has caused lakes and water supplies to dry up. Officials have had to provide water for hospitals and fire fighters. Low water levels at hydroelectric dams have led to electricity outages, or blackouts, in some parts of the country.

Pozo said the death of the monkeys says a lot about the state of the whole ecosystem.

He told the AP: "It is telling us something about what is happening with climate change."

I'm Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

primate –n. an order of mammals that includes monkeys and humans

veterinarian — n. a doctor who treats animals

critical –adj. very serious

dehydration — n. the state of not having enough water

dozens — n. (pl.) groups of 12

limp — adj. weak and unable to stand or move normally

drought — n. when there is not enough rain in an area for an extended period

delicate — adj. weak and unfirm