April the giraffe takes a break — a signal that it's OK to go grab another cup of coffee. No need to worry about the expectant mother; Oliver the giraffe is standing by. (Photo: Animal Adventure Park)
Update: April the giraffe has given birth — finally! — to a baby calf, which is a boy. The zoo announced around 7:30 a.m. that April was going into labor, and by 9:50 a.m., the not-so-little calf was safely on the ground. Less than an hour later, the calf was walking. Roughly 2 million people watched the birth from either the YouTube page or the zoo's Facebook page. Now it's time to think about a name! (Personally, I think Patience would be appropriate, though that might not be masculine enough.)
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Do you remember where you were when you first started watching?
For me, mentions of April first popped on my Facebook feed right in the beginning, mostly from my night owl friend, Amanda, who posted that she was glued to a livestream in the middle of the night waiting for a giraffe to give birth. I shrugged it off until I heard that alleged animal rights activists had pressured YouTube to take down the feed for "sexually explicit or nude content." Naturally, I had to see what the fuss was all about.
So did millions of other people around the world. YouTube was apparently bombarded with messages from people wanting the livestream to return ... which it did. And suddenly a tiny livestream from a tiny animal park in rural upstate New York was on everyone's radar. (Watch the livestream here in case you've been living under a rock and have no clue what we're talking about.)
It's been more than three weeks since 15-year-old April has had her every move analyzed through the cameras aimed at her pen at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York. Nearby, 5-year-old mate Oliver looks on and occasionally comes in to visit as his pen is cleaned. Voyeurs watch the graceful expectant mother as she munches on hay, ambles around, and often gazes right into the camera. The feed is mesmerizing and addictive — and it got us thinking about all the reasons why the world is hooked on April.
We love animals
While the world watches April, sometimes she watches back. (Photo: Animal Adventure Park/YouTube)
A lot of people love animals. Yes, that's obvious, but April's feed is a cool way of getting incredibly up close and personal with the circle of life, something most of us will never witness in person. Many teachers have commented on the park's Facebook page that they're using the livestream in their classrooms and have springboarded into all sorts of classroom lessons using April as the impetus.
Others have commented (both seriously and facetiously) that viewers have no idea what they're in for. The miracle of birth, after all, can be a messy affair. The baby will come out long, leggy feet first and come slamming to the ground from an impressive height. Here's a video of a giraffe birth at the Memphis Zoo if you want to know what you (or rather, what April) are about to experience. Keep an eye on the faces of some of the zoo visitors who are watching. It's definitely an awe-inspiring moment.
We're looking for something positive
The world is an interesting place right now. There's a lot of political upheaval and negativity, and April is a surprising bright spot amid all that turmoil.
"I'm amazed how watching this giraffe is bringing me peace, despite the things going on in our nation...," Nina Sol commented on YouTube. "This is just my opinion but I would suggest naming the baby something that references peace, joy or unity."
"I think the giraffe should be named Unity because it has brought everybody across the Internet together to watch it be born," posts Melissa Hess Hammel on Facebook.
We like to root for the underdog
Animal Adventure Park is a small for-profit hands-on park with about 200 animals, including 80 species. The park is only open seasonally, starting in May. In fact, the reason park employees dreamed up the idea of the livestream is because the park is closed while April is expected to give birth.
"People who've visited the park in previous months knew of April's pregnancy and the park has been receiving inquiries about her giving birth," park owner Jordan Patch told WUSA. "Animal Adventure felt this was a good way to keep those who wanted to follow along with April informed."
Because the park is small, the operation maybe isn't as slick as what you'd find from more polished, larger outlets. But that's what makes it so endearing. Patch got visibly upset with the YouTube shutdown and made a heartfelt Facebook live video, telling animal rights activists, "We're all on the same team. We want what's best for these animals."
Watch it here:
Fear of missing out
Once you've watched a little bit of the livestream, it's hard not to check in on April to see how she's doing. You get invested. I keep the feed up on one of the tabs in my browser and click over every once in a while just to check to see what's up with her. (One time, I saw her spread her legs a little bit and I was convinced she was about to deliver a baby. But alas, she only delivered a pile of poo.)
I saw several Facebook posts from people who said they keep the feed open on their phones while they sleep so they check on April in the middle of the night. They say they're happy to know that thousands of people around the world are tuned in at the same time.
"I have her on all my devices and she follows me wherever I am and whatever I'm doing!!" Karen Brown Simpson writes on Facebook. "My biggest fear is waking up (and trust me it isn't a long sleep) to find I've missed it after watching her for weeks!!!! I refuse to watch another giraffe giving birth on any videos, I want April to be my first!!"
This story was originally published in March and has been updated with more recent information.