Saturday, June 15, 2024

The sad case of giraffe ‘Benito’ reaches the mañanera

Animal lovers in Mexico have been following the saga of Benito the giraffe this week, as he finally appeared to be on the brink of transfer from unsafe living conditions in a Chihuahua public park to a spacious safari park in central Mexico.

However, the 3-year-old male was still at Central Park in Ciudad Juárez as of Thursday morning, after the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) said it had not authorized moving the animal to the Africam Safari park, located in the state of Puebla.

The tiny enclosure is open to the elements, exposing Benito to freezing temperatures. (Salvemos A Benito/X)

While the matter “is something that corresponds to the state government,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, he did add at his Wednesday morning press conference that the situation would be investigated. “If support is needed, they can count on us,” he said.

Benito’s home in Ciudad Juárez

When Benito arrived in May of last year, activists immediately went to work. The previous occupant of the space was a giraffe named Modesto, who endured 20 years of harsh living conditions before dying in 2021.

Activists launched a campaign, showing the public how Benito lives alone, suffers from frostbite in the winter and a lack of shade in the summer, and is subject to irregular feeding.

His home is not a zoo with trained staff, but an “ordinary” city park, said animal activist Ana Félix of the Somos su Voz (We are Your Voice) welfare group. She said the park’s veterinarian told her that he never had the necessary resources to care for Modesto.

At 3,000 square meters, the corral area is too small for a giraffe, and it has only two pine trees for an animal that likes to roam and search for food. Benito measures 4 meters, 30 centimeters (14 feet).

Another big problem is cold temperatures and biting winds in the winter. Modesto reportedly lost part of his ears and tail during a cold snap when the mercury dropped to minus-16 Celsius.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got involved with a memo titled “Urgent: Speak Out for a Lonely Giraffe in Mexico!”

The plan to transfer him

Félix said that communication with officials at Africam Safari had increased during December, and that the transfer appeared to be set for this week, with Puebla officials ready to come and collect Benito. Africam even issued a press release saying it would provide “optimal conditions” and place Benito in a group “to promote his socialization.”

Activists hope Benito can be moved to a safari park in the state of Puebla, which has agreed to accept him. (Salvemos A Benito/X)

Profepa says ‘not yet’

However, Profepa took to its social networks to say the transfer was not appropriate and it’s on hold. After an inspection, Profepa said it first wants Central Park in Juárez to fulfill its “unavoidable obligation” to achieve compliance with its operating guidelines.

“It is not enough to request the relocation of the specimen,” Profepa noted.

Frank Camacho, director of Africam Safari, said that his facility of more than 450 species, close to downtown Puebla, is working with federal and state authorities to legally complete the transfer.

Activists are hoping for a positive resolution by the end of this week.

Félix said she’s worried about Benito collapsing from cold temperatures and poor diet before the transfer occurs, and if that happens, she said, “not only one entity will be responsible, there will be two: the state government and Profepa.”

With reports from El Sol de Puebla, Infobae, El Financiero and Serendipia Digital


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