CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — After a campaign by environmentalists, Benito the giraffe left Mexico’s northern border and its extreme weather conditions Sunday night and headed for a conservation park in central Mexico, where the climate is more akin to his natural habitat and already a home to other giraffes.
Environmental groups had voiced strong complaints about conditions faced by Benito at the city-run Central Park zoo in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas, where weather in the summer is brutally hot and temperatures plunge during the winter.
A crane carefully lifted a container holding the giraffe onto a truck while city dwellers in love with the animal said a bittersweet goodbye. Some activists shouted, “We love you, Benito.”
“We’re a little sad that he’s leaving. but it also gives us great pleasure. … The weather conditions are not suitable for him,” said Flor Ortega, a 23-year-old who said she had spent her entire life visiting Modesto the giraffe, which was at the zoo for two decades before dying in 2022, and then Benito, which arrived last May.
The transfer could not have come at a better time, just when a new cold front was about to hit the area.
Benito was heading on a journey of 1,200 miles and about 50 hours on the road to his new home, the African Safari park in the state of Puebla. Visitors travel through the park in all-terrain vehicles to observe animals as if they were on safari.
The container, more than 16.5 feet, was specially designed for Benito, and the giraffe was allowed to become familiar with it during the weekend, said Frank Carlos Camacho, the director of the park.
The animal’s head sticks up through the top of the big wooden and metal box, but a frame allows a tarp to cover over Benito and insulate him from the cold, wind and rain as well as from noise and the sight of landscape speeding by.
“The giraffe has huge, huge eyes and gains height to be able to look for predators in the savannah and we have to inhibit that so that it does not have any source of stress,” Camacho said in a video posted on social media.
Inside the container are straw, alfalfa, water and vegetables, and electronic equipment will monitor the temperature and allow technicians to even talk to the animal.
Outside, Benito will be guarded by a convoy of vehicles with officers from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection and the National Guard.
“He’s going to be calm. He’s going to travel super well. We’ve done this many times,” Camacho said.