Benito the giraffe has left Mexico's northern border and its harsh weather and headed to a protected park in central Mexico, where the climate is closer to its natural habitat and is already home to other giraffes.
Environmental groups have expressed strong complaints about the conditions Benito faces at the city-run Central Park Zoo in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, where it is very hot in the summer and temperatures drop during the winter.
A crane carefully lifted a container carrying the giraffe onto a truck while city residents who love the animal said a bittersweet farewell. Some activists shouted: “We love you, Benito.”
“We are a little sad that he is leaving. The weather conditions are not suitable for him,” said Flor Ortega, 23, who said she spent her whole life visiting the giraffe Modesto, who had been at the zoo for two years. Decades before he died in 2022, then Benito, who arrived last May.
The relocation couldn't have come at a better time, when a new cold front was about to hit the region.
Benito was heading on a 2,000-kilometre (1,200-mile) journey and about 50 hours on the road to his new home, the African safari park in Puebla state. Visitors travel through the park in all-terrain vehicles to observe the animals as if they were on safari.
The enclosure, which is more than five meters (16.5 feet) high, was designed specifically for Benito, and the giraffe was allowed to get to know it over the weekend, said Frank Carlos Camacho, the park's director.
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.
“The giraffe has huge, huge eyes and is gaining height so that it can search for predators in the savannah and we have to prevent that so that it does not have any source of stress,” Camacho said in a video posted on social media.
Inside the container are hay, alfalfa, water and vegetables, and electronic equipment will monitor the temperature and even allow technicians to talk to the animal.
Outside, Benito will be guarded by a convoy of vehicles with officers from the Federal Environmental Protection Prosecutor and the National Guard.
“He'll be calm, he'll travel very well. We've done that many times,” Camacho said.
Associated Press writer Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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