Friday, June 14, 2024

A ‘citizens’ victory’: giraffe Benito welcomed to new home in Puebla

The much-anticipated transfer of Benito the giraffe from unsafe living conditions at a public park in Chihuahua to a spacious safari park in Puebla was completed on Tuesday morning.

Traveling across 10 states, in an epic 30-hour journey of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), Benito arrived at Africam Safari, an accredited zoo near the city of Puebla.

Benito was previously living in a public park in the middle of Ciudad Juárez, in terrible conditions. (Salvemos A Benito/X)

His new home is a far cry from Central Park in Ciudad Juárez, where Benito had lived alone since May of last year. At less than 1 acre, the virtually treeless corral was way too small for an animal that likes to roam and eat from trees, lacked shade in the scorching summer and was frigid in the winter. The park also lacked the proper staff to administer regular feedings or proper health care.

Seeing those conditions — and noting that the previous occupant, Modesto, endured the same harsh life for 20 years before dying in 2022 — sent people into action.

For eight months, environmentalists banded together in the “Save Benito” campaign to get the 3-year-old male transferred again; he had come previously from a zoo in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Images on social media last year showing the 14-foot-tall Benito crouching under a small awning, and others showing his  living conditions raised the hackles of people across Mexico.

The much-worked-for transfer appeared to be imminent two weeks ago, but the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) said it hadn’t given its approval and halted it.

Activists responded by initiating litigation against Profepa and  Ciudad Juárez’s Central Park, and a district judge in Chihuahua then issued a court order requiring the transfer.

Benito was transported by land in a temperature-controlled container under the care of specialists, with National Guard vehicles sometimes escorting alongside.


Soon he will be living with seven other giraffes.

“We arrived at Africam!” the park announced early Tuesday on its X social media account, adding a giraffe emoji. “ Welcome Benito!”

“He is in very good condition,” said Frank Camacho, director of Africam Safari. “He was very curious…because of all the things here that are new to him.”

For the first few days, Benito will be under protection in “a room specially designed for giraffes, where we can do any medical management, any zootechnical management.”

He will slowly be converted to a new diet — starting with branches of African acacia trees — and he has already met his handlers.

“They will be taking care of him for a long time,” Camacho said. “The keepers at Africam have a lot of experience with giraffes … They know perfectly how to handle them, how to read them, how to understand them.”

With reports from Reforma and Proceso


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