NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — We’ve been waiting a long time to say this… April the giraffe has finally given birth!
Before an online audience of more than a million viewers, April the giraffe gave birth to a male calf Saturday at a New York zoo, ending weeks of proverbial pacing by animal lovers in a virtual worldwide waiting room.
The 15-year-old giraffe delivered her calf shortly before 10 a.m. EDT in an enclosed pen at the zoo in Harpursville, a rural upstate village about 130 miles northwest of New York City. The mama giraffe tenderly licked her calf, which began to slowly pick its head up from the floor of the pen. About 45 minutes after it was born, the calf stood on its wobbly legs for the first time while mom helped keep her baby steady.
He began nursing not long after.
At least 1.2 million people watched the Adventure Park’s YouTube streaming of the event . A logo on the feed quickly changed from ToysRUs to BabiesRUs following the birth.
Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch said that both mom and calf are doing fine.
Patch said the calf’s entrance into the world “was unnerving to even those of us who have witnessed animal births previously.”
“Giraffes give birth standing up, which means when the calf is ready to be born, it exits its mother hooves first from six feet off the floor, making for a very exciting event,” Patch said in a news release.
Besides the cuteness factor, April’s new baby is important for animal conservation. The giraffe population has declined by 40 percent in the last three decades, making the species vulnerable to extinction.
“Any time there is a species that is either vulnerable or on the verge of extinction and they have that baby it is very important to that conservation,” Cassy Holets, a giraffe keeper, said.
While mom and the baby spent their first day bonding, human families flocked to the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange to celebrate, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
“We don’t go to the zoo a lot I don’t get to see that kinda stuff a lot, so it was fun to see it on Facebook,” Kayla Westergaard, of Montville, said.
John Donnelly, 7, has been following the pregnancy with his family and insisted that they all go to the zoo together.
“We really want them to experience nature,” mother Wendy Donnelly said.
This is April’s fourth calf, but Animal Adventure Park’s first giraffe calf. The proud papa, a 5-year-old giraffe named Oliver, watched from an adjacent pen. This is his first offspring.
The privately owned zoo began live streaming from April’s enclosure in February. People around the world have been tuning in daily. The animal even got her own text alerts and merchandise through the zoo’s website.
A GoFundMe fundraiser page that initially set a goal of $50,000 sat at more than $125,000 on Saturday morning. The money will be used for the care of the animals.
A contest will be held to decide on a name for the calf.
The park’s live stream was briefly interrupted in February when YouTube pulled the feed after someone reported the images contained explicit material and nudity. Jordan Patch, owner of the Animal Adventure Park, blamed “a handful of extremists and animal rights activists” for the interruption.
The wait for the giraffe became an anxiety-ridden experience for some. A Farmington, New Hampshire, songwriter even posted a music video on YouTube called, “I’m Going Crazy Waiting (For A Giraffe).”
Animal Adventure park is currently closed to the public and will open in mid-May. Whatever’s in store for this little giraffe, the cald already has one big accomplishment — bringing animal lovers around the world together in the miracle of life.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)