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Activists work to relocate giraffe stuck in small Mexican enclosure, exposed to scorching sun and hail

Benito the giraffe arrived in Mexico’s arid northern border city of Ciudad Juarez just last month, and already the climate appears to be a problem — and he’s only had to deal with the scorching heat of summer.

The snow and freezing temperatures of winter are still to come, and animal activists are up in arms and pushing a campaign under the hashtag “Save Benito” seeking to have the animal moved somewhere more hospitable.

On a recent day, the 3-year-old male giraffe could be seen crouching with only its head under a small, circular canopy for shade. The structure did little to protect him from a pelting rain and a hail storm later.

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“We can offer him a brand new heated barn, so in the winter he doesn’t stand in the snow and freeze,” ranch operator Matt Lieberman wrote in response to The Associated Press. “We have an on staff vet that cares for our animals and we have 24 hour staff for him.”

Benito the giraffe

Children visit Benito the giraffe at the city-run Central Park in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on June 13, 2023.  (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

He added that the giraffe would have 320 acres to roam in. “He doesn’t have any trees to browse from” at the park in Mexico, Lieberman said. “He needs trees to eat from and keep stimulated.”

Benito appears to have just about finished off the only small trees within his reach at Central Park and can do little more than walk in circles.

“He could be fine here,” Reyes said, “but it would also be good if they could take him to a place where they belong, with a herd.”

Park director Rogelio Muñoz said authorities are planning to build Benito a new, heated winter house by September.

The park is also building a larger sun canopy for the giraffe and dredging out garbage and fetid water from a pool that takes up much of the enclosure. Benito will have fresh water in a trough.

“We want to be like El Paso,” Muñoz said.

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Central Park, which also holds a few other animal species like ducks and donkeys, invited kids from across the city to come visit the new giraffe; the government of the border state of Chihuahua sponsored a contest among grade schoolers to name him.

Muñoz acknowledged that Modesto’s life was far from the best — children who used to visit the giraffe would feed him potato chips and snack foods. But park officials have launched a campaign to teach kids to bring Benito only lettuce and carrots.

Muñoz said he also doesn’t want Benito to live out his life alone.

“When his quarters are fixed up, his house, with heating … then we want to bring in a female, because he cannot be alone,” Muñoz said.

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