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Mexico heatwave killing monkeys, lions offered frozen meat lollies

In News, World
June 11, 2024

Amid Mexico’s heatwave and drought, suffering birds are getting air conditioning and monkeys with heatstroke are being rescued by nongovernmental groups.

The government, meanwhile, has been more preoccupied with cooling down animals at state-run zoos across the country, giving lions frozen meat lollies. It is not the only frosty treat: one rescue group is feeding distressed owls with rat carcasses shipped in frozen from Mexico City.

A heat dome, an area of strong high pressure centred over the southern Gulf of Mexico and northern Central America, has blocked clouds from forming and caused extensive sunshine and hot temperatures across Mexico and the United States.

Much of the impact on wildlife is being felt in central and southern Mexico, because while temperatures are also high in the north, it is mostly desert and the animals there have some coping mechanisms for extreme heat and drought.

On the steamy gulf coast, an animal park has set up air-conditioned rooms for eagles, owls and other birds of prey.

In the south, howler monkeys continue to fall dead of the trees with heatstroke. Deaths now probably number more than 250.

In the southern state of Tabasco, the few monkeys that can be saved from dehydration and heat stroke are mostly being saved by NGOs like the Biodiversity Conservation of the Usumacinta group. Known by its initials as COBIUS, the group has saved and stabilised 18 monkeys.

Wildlife biologist Gilberto Pozo, the head of the group, has been accompanying teams of biologists and veterinarians out into the jungle to look for ailing monkeys.

Many times, they get there too late. “Yesterday we lost three of the animals,” Pozo said as he bounced in a truck along a rural road in the southern gulf coast state of Tabasco, the worst-hit area. “We went out to rescue them. We couldn’t stabilise them.”

The monkeys — midsized primates known for their roaring calls — were too far gone with a kind of severe fluid loss as Mexico grapples with drought along with heat.

As of May 31, the environment department acknowledged that a total of 204 howler monkeys had died, 157 of them in Tabasco. Pozo said the number in Tabasco alone has since risen to 198, suggesting the nationwide toll is now near 250.

“The only rescue plan or programme is the one our organisation is doing,” Pozo said. Amid budget cuts for many environmental agencies, the government now has to rely on NGOs.

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