An extended, severe drought in southern Veracruz has proved fatal for rare howler monkeys.
A combination of extreme temperatures nearing 40 C and a three-month dearth of rainfall in the region has deprived the monkeys of access to sufficient water.
Alfredo Martínez Alfonso, a municipal police officer in Chancarral, Minatitlán, the location of a large wildlife refuge, said nearly 10 monkeys have died.
Most are “mothers who then leave their young behind as orphans. Everything has dried up, so the animals have been dying throughout the months of April and May . . . they do not have water, and so they do not have any way to get nutrients.”
Resident Dolores Morales told the news platform La Razón that the area has never seen such a dramatic decline in the howler monkey population due to drought.
“The [death] of the monkeys is something we have never seen before. I have lived here for 25 years . . . and in all that time we have not ever heard of any deaths from a drought until now.”
Howler monkeys spend most of their lives in tall trees of the rainforest. Now, residents say, the survivors can be seen in the trees among the hanging corpses of the drought victims. Alejandrina Martínez Jiménez, another Chancarral resident, said locals have left water and food for the monkeys in an attempt to keep them alive.
“We brought them water. A girl climbed up [a] branch . . . and that’s where we left them water, but we do not know if it is high enough that they can climb down to get it. It is such a shame to see the poor animals die since they are so much like humans.”
Residents of nearby Hidalgotitlán rallied on Sunday to help. For three hours yesterday morning they gathered donations of fruit that was delivered later to Chancarral.
Howler monkeys are becoming increasingly rare and are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. Some experts believe that howler monkeys could become extinct within the next 35 years.
There were about 30 believed to be living in the Chancarral area.