Dear Today Show,
I watched a clip from your show this morning with your comments about April the Giraffe. You know— the Internet sensation that none of you seemed to even be very familiar with. The very pregnant giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York. The giraffe who one of you doubted and said didn’t even look pregnant but in your next breath admitted that you didn’t even know what a pregnant giraffe looked like. Huh? Maybe you need to visit AAP’s Facebook page and look at all the photos. The giraffe who you mentioned (while laughing) was being watched on the park’s live web cam by thousands and thousands of people all over the world— people like me who are anxiously and excitedly awaiting the birth of April’s calf. You asked “What does that say?”
I’m not sure why, but your comments raised my hackles a little. Your comments, which to me seemed just a tad bit condescending, made me feel very defensive toward Animal Adventure Park who has been nothing but loving to the public while also trying to take care of 200+ other animals and share and educate us all on giraffes and the miracle of birth. I think YOU need to get on Adventure Animal Park’s website and educate YOURSELVES a little about April, their very loving animal keepers, and about Giraffe gestational periods. They have said repeatedly that giraffe gestational periods can be 15 months give or take 60 days. I’m no mathematician, but I think that means giraffes can carry their calves perhaps as long as 17 months. I think the park witnessed copulation between April and Oliver on several occasions but admitted that there may have been a fertile period that they missed (a female giraffe’s estrus cycle is only about 15 days). So if I’m correct, it would seem darn near impossible for them to know an exact “due date” for April. I’m not sure you can even assign due dates to giraffes like you do in people.
So let me try to answer your question as to why thousands and thousands of people would stay up all night watching this “Internet sensation.” And I’ll mention that I was up at 12:30 am watching early this morning and there were over 206,000 people up watching with me (the most I have personally seen). Since April was mentioned on The Today Show today and just a little while ago on Inside Edition, I’m sure those numbers will climb tonight. As I type this letter, there are over 160,000 watching.
To me, as a veterinarian, and who by the way has been utterly awed and fascinated by watching April the giraffe, it has been a wonderful learning experience to be able to get so up close and personal on a 24 hour basis with April and Oliver (April’s mate). It has been great fun and extremely educating. I’ve enjoyed reading the park’s twice daily updates on their Facebook page, watching the veterinarian’s daily visits (live), watching April get her much-loved Romaine lettuce and carrot treats daily, her famous tongue waving right in front of the camera, the loving interactions with the keepers and April (if you haven’t heard there is one keeper who gives loving, daily kisses to her enormous pregnant belly), and watching the numerous educational videos the park has made during April’s journey. I think we can all say they’ve gone above and beyond. Education is always, always a good thing. Mothers have been flocking to libraries to checkout out books on giraffes for themselves and their children. I bet there are kids all around the world right now that know almost as much about giraffes than most zoo keepers know.
For me personally, I’ve invested almost 6 weeks of my time in April-watching. I’ve sat up late into the wee hours of the morning and watched April on the live cam. Have you ever just stopped for a few minutes and really watched a giraffe? How they eat? How a very pregnant giraffe in the end stretch of her pregnancy lies down at night to rest? How they are so very curious? How they interact with people and other giraffes? Have you seen April’s hysterical hay showers— a funny quirk of hers that the park said she has done since coming to them? If not, then you’ve missed out. Watching this giraffe has been pure joy. It’s made me even more in awe of our magnificent creator.
It may sound like a cliché, but there’s nothing like witnessing the miracle of birth. Have you ever seen a giraffe calf come into the world? I haven’t and I’m hoping to see it live. I’ve prayed for the safe birth and arrival of this little one into our world. And I’ve prayed for April’s health and safety during her delivery. Yeah, maybe I’m a little obsessed but she’s such a gentle giant who has taught me much about love these past 6 weeks.
Sharing this experience with April and Oliver has been so heart warming. It’s been a welcome relief from all the hatred and political divisiveness going on in the world right now. It’s somehow brought on a feel of unity which is much-needed right now. It’s warmed my heart to witness the love going on at this animal park. This park owner and all his staff are working hard trying to get their park open by May 13th (that’s A LOT of work, let me tell you), yet, they’ve taken the time to share this magnificent event with the world. I’m sure they didn’t expect all this attention they are getting— positive or negative. They’ve had to endure a lot of criticism and answer the same mundane questions over and over and over. They’ve been so patient. During all of this, the park has had to deal with other animal births and keeping their animals safe from 3 ft. of snow from storm Stella, yet they never missed keeping us updated. They’re doing a lot for Giraffe conservation which is so important. According to GCF (Giraffe Conservation Foundation), there has been a 40% drop in the giraffe population over the past 3 decades. It is thought that there are less than 100,000 giraffes now in Africa. Baby giraffes in the wild have only a 25% chance of survival due to predation.
On the AAP’s live chat sessions and Facebook page, I’ve read comments from multiple people who, either disabled themselves or taking care of disabled loved ones, have said that watching April has brought them some much-needed peace and happiness. There have been people who are going through cancer chemo treatments and other illnesses and people who have lost loved ones and are in the throes of grief and mourning, who have commented that watching April’s live webcam has brought peace and happiness once more to their lives and brought a welcome relief from the pain and loneliness they feel. That right there people, makes this all worthwhile to me.
And as to your mention that this might be a conspiracy theory— that this is all a big April Fool’s joke since after all, the giraffe we are watching is named April? I don’t believe it for a minute. There are confirmed signs of pregnancy, baby kicks and milky udders. I hope April’s calf IS born on April 1st. And I so hope when the calf is born, that April will give all the naysayers a great big wag of that famous tongue of hers— right into the lens of the camera.
So to The Today Show, what does this all say? I think I can summarize it by saying it says we are a world in bad need of more love right now and we’re finding a small slice of that love in a pregnant giraffe named April. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says:
These three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
Love will always win. And now, I think it’s time for me to go check on my April girl. Oliver is doing his happy dance and prancing which means it’s their dinner time. And I sure don’t want to miss that.
Gail Dozier (a faithful watcher of April the Giraffe)