Benito the giraffe arrived in Mexico’s dry northern border city of Ciudad Juarez last month.
Already, the climate appears to be a problem. The creature has to deal with the heat of summer. And the snow and very cold temperatures of winter are still to come.
As a result, some animal activists are leading a social media campaign to “Save Benito.” They seek to have the animal moved somewhere easier to live.
On a recent day, the 3-year-old male giraffe could be seen with only its head under a small, circular area for shade. The structure did little to protect him from a storm that came later in the day.
There is also a small building for the winter. But activists say it is cruel for the city-run Central Park to keep the giraffe in a small area, by himself, in a climate he is not used to.
Ana Félix said, “We have been fighting for a month, a group of animal activists, to demand that he be taken to an animal sanctuary, a zoo, ...” The Ciudad Juarez animal rights activist said Benito should be housed in the right space with people who know how to care for such animals.
Blue Hills, a sanctuary in Texas that rescues animals and books private tours to help offset the cost, has offered to buy or adopt Benito.
“We can offer him a ... new heated barn, so in the winter he doesn’t stand in the snow and freeze,” sanctuary worker Matt Lieberman wrote to The Associated Press. “We have an on-staff vet that cares for our animals and we have 24-hour staff for him.”
He added that the giraffe would have 130 hectares to move around in. 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.
Officials at the park reject the criticism, though they admit they cannot provide more trees. They say they are working to improve Benito’s living area, saying his presence has been important in increasing the park’s popularity among visitors, largely children. Monthly visits rose from about 140,000 before Benito arrived to 200,000.
Park visitor Derek Reyes, 11, had mixed feelings about Benito.
“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 officials are planning to build Benito a new, heated winter house by September.
The park is also building a larger sun covering for the giraffe and cleaning water in the pool that takes up much of the enclosure. Benito will have fresh water in a special drinking container known as a trough.
“The conditions, attention and care in the habitat of the park’s new resident are optimal for his stay,” the park wrote in a social media message.
A zoo in the much milder climate of Sinaloa, a state on Mexico’s northern Pacific coast, gave Benito to Ciudad Juarez’s Central Park.
Benito could not stay with two other giraffes at the Sinaloa zoo because they were a couple. The male in the couple could become protective and attack the younger Benito.
The giraffe’s arrival was a point of pride for Ciudad Juarez, a city across from El Paso, Texas. El Paso has giraffes at its zoo, the thinking goes, so why can’t Ciudad Juarez?
“We want to be like El Paso,” Muñoz said.
I’m John Russell.
Mark Stevenson reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
giraffe – n. a very tall African animal that has a long neck
sanctuary – n. a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
barn – n. a building on a farm that is used for storing grain and hay and for housing farm animals or equipment
vet – n. short for veterinarian an animal doctor
stimulate – v. to make a person or thing excited or interested in something
herd -- n. a group of animals that live or are kept together
habitat -- n. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows
optimal – adj. best or most effective