Zoo tells a tall story to US peace force

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The Independent Online
Budapest (Reuter) - The American contingent of the Nato peace implementation force for Bosnia (I-For) based in Hungary has been asked by Budapest Zoo to fly three giraffes from Frankfurt.

The Hungarian entrepreneur Gabor Varszegi bought the three Zambian giraffes last November as a present for the zoo. Due to veterinary regulations, the animals can only be brought into the country by air, and the only civilian aircraft large enough to take the three-metre tall animals is the Boeing 747.

A flight could easily be arranged from the Zambian capital Lusaka to Frankfurt but there are no regular jumbo jet flights from Frankfurt to Budapest, zoo director Miklos Persanyi said. However, there are regular US military transport flights to the Taszar base in southern Hungary using aircraft large enough to accommodate the young giraffes.

Mr Persanyi said his zoo badly needed the animals as its only giraffe was 20 years old, well past the usual lifespan.

"We asked for US military transportation as a last resort, after months of fruitless effort," he said yesterday.