April the Giraffe

Have you heard about April the giraffe?

She became an online sensation back in February as thousands of people around the world began watching her online, awaiting the birth of her calf.

Animal Adventure Park, in Harpursville, New York, has a special giraffe exhibit for April and her mate, Oliver. There is a camera set up with a live feed that you can watch around the clock to see what the pregnant giraffe is up to, hoping to catch the moment the baby’s hooves finally begin to emerge. The facebook comment section alongside the video is also a source of amusement. People posting in real time the thoughts that occur to them as we all watch a giraffe stand around and munch on some hay.

Her large, curious eyes are so endearing, her chin so fuzzy. She is a mosaic of brown patches and cream lines, the shapes a drought makes in a dried up waterhole. You can tell how gigantic the creatures are when a human comes in to check on April and Oliver. She opens their doors for their morning outside time. April is more than double the human’s height, legs and neck impossibly long, her round belly bulging. They say the newborn will be about 6 feet tall, 150 lbs. Pretty much the size of this zookeeper. Like a soap opera, we can’t tear our eyes away. Separated for most of the day, they share some time together in her side of the pen. Oliver is nuzzling her. I’m projecting all kinds of human emotions onto them. They are in love! I know the calf will be kept from the bull, that it will be weaned from the mother and sent to another zoo, but there’s this beautiful giraffe romance unfolding that I just want to be true.

April doesn’t want to go outside, so they close the door. Maybe it’s too cold for her. Oliver goes out for a bit but comes back in. Someone logs on and sees her still inside, they question why aren’t they letting her outside? They think the pen is too small, they think animals shouldn’t be in captivity, they think April is too far past her due date and a vet should give her a C-section. They wonder if the enclosure is a safe place for a birth, that hard ground and all. The people posting comments also get sidetracked, wondering if shingles is contagious, then demanding others stop talking about shingles, people accusing others of being the comment police, and then those who had shingles and where. A lot of complaining about negative comments, while most of the negative comments I see are those complaining about the negative comments. What foods go with cod for dinner? Green beans and wild rice, another suggests lemon.

Quick check, April is lying down. She had some lettuce earlier, hand fed from the balcony near where the camera is mounted. The viewing audience is enthralled by the cute closeup and wiggly way her jaw works the romaine, her long, bluish tongue searching out the leaves.

April stands a certain way and it looks like she is having a contraction. When she puts her tail out like that it’s like when cows give birth. What do you think, peanut gallery? Someone feels attacked that they are a single parent and they are just trying to do the best they can with ovarian cancer. Another says to look up the definition of trolls. Sheila is going for a 30 min nap. Hearts soar across the screen. Why won’t they let her outside? More spelling mistakes. Koodles to you for adopting 8 chihuahuas.

April’s now got her face over by Oliver’s pen. They are munching on something from the basket. Oliver steps out of the camera’s view, April stands chewing. The way she flips her head is so playful, they way she wiggles her ears, her long eyelashes, her heaving sides, her affection with the baby’s father, you just want to keep watching her. She scratches her neck on the wall, she looks out the window. I’ll finish putting away the laundry later, I don’t want to miss anything. She could start labour at any moment.

They leave a light on for her at night. Giraffes don’t need much sleep. In the wild, they always need to be able to run away from predators, and even in captivity they only sleep short periods at a time. You wake up in the night to check on her, you check first thing in the morning, did she have the baby?

What if the camera doesn’t capture it? What if everyone watching and waiting for that moment just sees her go off into the corner? Or worse, what if it happens while you are away from the computer? Better keep watching just in case. I had to use the washroom, what did I miss? Someone in the comments questions if she is even pregnant, or just fat. Some are anxious it’s taking too long, they think about a human woman’s discomfort during pregnancy and what it would mean to be two months overdue.

When her udders fill with milk it’s almost time. She hasn’t been interested in eating grain. The expecting father paces in his pen. Any day now, what they’ve been saying for weeks. The giraffe gestation period is 13-15 months. The vet says everything is normal. The Animal Adventure Park is taking donations and selling merchandise, such as the “Push, April, Push!” hoodie. Will the baby be born on April Fools Day? Will the baby come during the Walking Dead finale? No, she’s still standing there, pregnant as ever.

The zookeeper waves to the camera.
She has come in with her shovel to clean out parts of the enclosure. Later, April grabs a mouthful of hay from the raised basket and tosses it around her head, tumbling the dark stalks back to the just-cleaned floor. So much personality. There are more videos on youtube about April, you get to see different angles of the exhibit. Listen to the staff talk about her progress, see the vet admit he was wrong with the due date prediction. The zoo director gets on camera to tell worried people at home to stop emailing him and trust the professionals know what they are doing.

There is a video from the Dallas Zoo of a live giraffe birth. The calf’s legs were sticking out quite a while before it plopped to the ground, where the mother almost stepped on it, lying there motionless like a horror movie prop. They say it takes a few minutes. The camera cuts out. I wonder how the facebook commenters are going to react when April’s moment comes, and there is no human medical team waiting there with a velvet cushion and monitors and medicines. Will they recoil in terror as April licks off the tissues near the baby’s face and eats the placenta? We will have to wait and see.


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