Heat Dome Crisis: 157 Howler Monkeys Suffer Heat-Related Deaths in Mexico


In the sweltering heat of Mexico, an ominous crisis has gripped the animal kingdom. A shocking increase in heat-related deaths among howler monkeys, a unique species resident to the tropical forests, has been reported. The Mexican government confirmed a death toll that has now soared to 157. This figure becomes alarmingly somber when measured against the tragically small population of these primates currently either under treatment or on the road to recovery.

Simultaneously, reports have started to pour in from an animal park situated in northern Mexico, painting a grim picture of the situation. Over a hundred native wildlife species such as parrots, bats, and other animals have tragically succumbed, primarily due to severe dehydration.

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A heat dome, described as an area of intense high pressure, has formed over the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico and the northern belt of Central America, causing a dearth of cloud cover. This weather phenomenon has resulted in abundant sunshine and intense, relentless heat sweeping across the entire country.

Environmentalists had previously reported that from May 16, a staggering 138 howler monkeys had been found dead in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco. These mid-size primates, famed for their thunderous vocalizations, make up a significant portion of the casualties. With an expected surge in temperature reaching as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), the situation appears increasingly dire.

The Environment Department, through a disclosure late on Sunday, stated that the death toll had since risen to 157. Teams spearheading the research are undertaking painstaking efforts to uncover the root causes of these mortalities.

Gilberto Pozo, a seasoned wildlife biologist, attributed these deaths primarily to heat strokes. He indicated a convergence of adverse conditions​—including extreme heat, prolonged drought, forest fires, and logging—​that deprived the monkeys of water, food, and shade leading to their demise. He did not, however, categorically rule out the presence of a pathogenic disease or other unidentified factors.

The department confirmed that casualties were reported not only in Tabasco but also in the neighboring state of Chiapas. Thirteen monkeys are reportedly receiving treatment, with seven having been released back into their natural habitat. Some of these primates received assistance for dehydration, with three critically ill but stabilizing.

Relocating the recovered monkeys remains an uphill battle with ongoing heat waves, forest fires, and relentless deforestation laying waste to their natural habitats.

In the northern part of San Luis Potosi, Ena Buenfil, the director of Selva Teenek eco-park, shared her distressing account. Her sanctuary has been inundated with dying animals, predominantly parrots, bats, and toucans, all falling helpless to the ruthless heat.

With many birds succumbing to dehydration in the blistering heat, Buenfil emphasized the need for locals to aid wildlife by strategically placing bowls of water in their vicinity. She warned of harrowing repercussions on the ecosystem if such heat waves persist, leaving inconceivable casualties in their wake.

Howler monkeys, despite being intimidating predators due to their formidable stature and daunting roars, have fallen victim to these harsh conditions. The tragic toll of the heatwave on howler monkeys serves as a stark reminder of the magnitude this ecological crisis is assuming.

The country, grappling with below-average rainfall, is witnessing its water resources, including lakes and dams, drying up. Authorities have resorted to water transportation to facilitate everything from hospital functions to firefighting efforts. Scarcely filled hydroelectric dams have even contributed to power blackouts in certain regions.