A campaign by animal rights activists has successfully moved the four-year-old giraffe to a zoo in the central Mexican state of Puebla, where he will join a group of resident giraffes and enjoy a more favorable climate.
It's been a long and lonely road for Benito. Jealousy forced him to leave his home at the zoo in the state of Sinaloa on the Pacific coast; He was moved last year to a city-run park in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, to live a life on his own.
As temperatures in Ciudad Juarez reached 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) on Monday, Benito set off in a box strapped to the back of a flatbed truck. It is a long load, about 16 feet (meters) high, and the roof of its box can be lowered to pass under bridges.
The animal's head protrudes through the top of the large wooden and metal box, but the frame allows a tarp to be draped over the Benito and insulated from the cold, wind and rain as well as from noise and the view of the brisk landscape.
Residents gathered to say farewell late Sunday in Ciudad Juarez, where a crane lifted the container carrying the giraffe onto a truck for the journey. Some of them shouted: “We love you, Benito.”
“We're a little sad because he's leaving,” said Flor Ortega, 23, who said she has spent her whole life visiting Modesto, another giraffe who has been at the zoo for two years, but she also gives us joy. “Big… the weather conditions are not suitable for him.” Decades before he died in 2022. Benito arrived last May.
Benito is transported across Mexico to Africam Safari Park in the central state of Puebla where low temperatures are about 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in Ciudad Juarez.
Most importantly, Benito may finally find a mate: there will be three giraffes in his new home.
Environmental groups have expressed strong complaints about the conditions Benito faces at the city-run Central Park Zoo in Ciudad Juarez, where it is extremely hot in the summer and temperatures drop during the winter.
Benito originally came from a zoo in the more temperate state of Sinaloa, a state on Mexico's northern Pacific coast. Benito couldn't stay with the other two giraffes there because they were a pair, and zookeepers feared the male would become territorial and attack the younger Benito.
So it was donated to Ciudad Juarez. In the summer there, he had little shade in his half-acre (0.2 ha) barn; Photos showed him bending to fit a small circular umbrella in the summer. In the winter, ice sometimes forms in the barn pond. There were only a few trees for him to eat.
At Africa Safari Park, giraffes live in a much larger area that closely resembles their natural habitat. Visitors travel through the park in all-terrain vehicles to observe the animals as if they were on safari.
The container, specially designed to transport Benito, is more than five meters (16.5 feet) high. Africam Safari Park manager Frank Carlos Camacho said the giraffe was allowed to be identified over the weekend.
In a video update posted Monday afternoon from the north-central state of Zacatecas, about 15 or 16 hours into the flight, Camacho said: “Benito is doing very well.”
He said the truck stopped for park employees to check the cables holding the box, and to give Benito “some candy, a little sugar to give him energy.”
The trip goes faster than originally expected, partly because the truck carrying Benito doesn't need to go so slowly.
Inside the container are hay, alfalfa, water and vegetables, and there is electronic equipment that monitors the temperature and allows technicians to talk to the animal.
Outside, Benito is accompanied by a convoy of police, environmental officials and the National Guard.
Camacho said that in his new home, it will be as if life will start over for him. He said: “He is ready to become a giraffe. He will reproduce soon and contribute to the preservation of this wonderful species.”
Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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