If you’ve been to a news outlet this week, there was one story that likely stood out between the crime and politics: April the Giraffe.
April is a 15-year-old Giraffe at the Animal Adventure Park in Hapursville, New York. Days ago, the park put up a live stream of April so viewers can see the birth of her fourth calf. The popularity, aided by a brief takedown of the video by Youtube, is astounding.
Just googling the word “april” leads to these results on the first page.
At any given point, tens of thousands of people are watching the live stream hoping to get a glimpse of a baby giraffe coming into the world.
This is a pet-focused blog but I’ve never seen this kind of response about a dog or cat giving birth (then again, I don’t know that that’s ever been live streamed but there are plenty of videos out there). What makes people so fascinated?
I don’t know the reason, but I do know that last fall giraffes became a threatened species, with their population dropping from near 160,000 in 1985 to 97,500 in recent years. Some have referred to this as a “silent extinction” since even those fighting for endangered species don’t realize giraffes are at risk.
As numbers continue to decline, it’s possible that April will not be an exception by having her calf in captivity. Even before giraffes got their vulnerable status, only 25% of calves lived to see adulthood. This is because they do not have much energy and are a much smaller target for predators.
Giraffes mate in conditions that are least stressful, normally when resources are easily accessible. One of the reasons population is going down is the lack of resources caused by encroachment from other towns and poaching.
Basically, towns are limited the resources so the adults are uncomfortable reproducing, and then food-insecure individuals are hunting them for food.
So, captivity breeding is the way to go? Well…
Giraffes raised in captivity do not develop the appropriate instincts for life in the wild (fearing predators, using their tongue to reach for food, etc.). This makes them vulnerable to any other environment.
So, giraffes may only be in captivity and not in the wild. (Either that or we may need to start worrying about stray giraffes roaming the streets.)
The best thing this fascination with April can do is get people interested. If someone searches for more information on giraffes, perhaps they’ll run into these same facts.
If species population does not increase, we may need to find something else to teach our kids the letter “g.”