Monday, March 27, 2017

Giraffe Midwife Needed?

April, the giraffe, is ready to give birth any second now.  Her belly is as huge as a barrel.  I've become fairly obsessed intrigued by this giraffe and by the whole process of readying for a large animal birth in a small rural zoo.

Located in the Animal Adventure Park, a small interactive educational animal park in Harpursville, New York, April and her pregnancy saga have captured my heart and the affections of hundreds of thousands of You Tubers around the world.

From the moment I learned of the giraffe who "is about to deliver at any moment,"  I've been glued to the live camera feed of her onYou Tube, watching her a ridiculous amount of hours each day a lot.  By this point I've been monitoring April for 4 weeks, 5 days, 3 hours, and 24 minutes.

My April addiction began while I was eating my lunch back on February 22 of this year.  So, the way I see it, by now I'm practically qualified to be her birth doula.  I'm sure I know her that well.

In fact, all I have to do is put an "a" in the Google search bar.  I've searched "aprilthegiraffe.com" so often, checking her progress and wellbeing, my search engine takes me right there.  Heaven forbid if I wanted to learn something about albatrosses, or albumen, or any other "a" thing.  I'd have to actually type in the whole word.

During this long season of waiting, I've learned all about giraffes and their birthing habits.  Surely April's veterinary, Dr. Tim, would be grateful to have me as his quite competent assistant.  I'm possessed now with a wealth of information, just due to all the other giraffe birthing videos I've watched and internet articles I've read.

April and Oliver, necking
Oh, and I know all about April's relationship with her boyfriend, Oliver, too.  I'm on top of that.  April is 15, and this will be her fourth baby.  Oliver is only 5, and this is his first offspring.  So actually, April is a cougar disguised in giraffe spots.

Furthermore, we can truthfully call Oliver a deadbeat dad.  He won't have anything to do with the raising of this calf.  The only thing male giraffes worry about is mating and dining.  Repeat, over and over.

April is currently about 2000 pounds, a healthy weight for a 14 foot tall pregnant giraffe.  Oliver still has a bit of growing to do before he is a full grown bull.  He weighs in at about 1600 pounds now and is only about 12 feet tall.  He'll enlarge to about 2600 pounds at a full height of about 18 feet.  These are large animals, to be sure.

April with Alyssa, her favorite keeper
I really should be there, for I bet nobody knows her behavior patterns like I do.  I've studied what she likes, how she flings her hay over her shoulders, how she moves, when she lays down, and which keepers she responds to the most.  I've learned what every different sort of tail raising indicates - peeing, pooing, itching, fly swooshing, irritation, moodiness, or pressure.  And don't go pressing hard on her left side up there in the middle - she doesn't like that.  She will kick you or give you a whopping tail smack.

I know when she needs food, snacks, enrichment, attention, vet checks, and clean flooring.  Alyssa is her favorite tender.  I suppose I'd agree to working alongside Alyssa to help April give birth.

I'm been watching all the progress towards April's impending delivery, and I know she's getting very close.  The hubby and I often talk over dinner about the "signs."  Our conversations are peppered with comments like "increased backend swell," "aggressive baby movement," and "wax caps still present."  (Wax caps cover the holes at the tips of the teats to keep the nutritious colostrum fluid in for the baby's first nursing.)  We're onto all of it.  Ask me at any moment of the day, and I'll give you the most recent update.

Look closely for those wax caps
Ultimately when it's baby time, we're gonna see hooves protrude out April's backside, if her birth goes according to the normal pattern.  This emergence of baby's hooves will be the only sure sign that she is in active labor.  Giraffes instinctively hide all other signs of labor.  In the wild they don't want to do anything that alerts predator lions and jackals near to a vulnerable new baby.

So I wait.  I watch.  I check.  I fret if my internet craps out for a few moments.

How long will we still have to wait?  Good question.  The zookeeper tells us that a "witnessed" mating" occurred back in mid-October of 2015.  Giraffe pregnancies typically last 15 months, so the birth window was calculated to be mid-January to mid-February of 2017.  Hence the live camera was placed and started filming the "any moment it could happen" event in mid-February.

Well here we are in late March, no baby.  Since then the zookeeper has deduced that the first witnessed mating apparently "didn't take," and perhaps a later coupling did.  Not only that, but giraffe delivery due date windows take the estimated due date, plus or minus 50 days!

With so much watching and waiting, April and her child-to-be are just such a part of my life now.  They're practically my family.

Zoo officials say the live camera feed will continue for five days after the birth and then will be taken down.

What?  They can't just cut me off like that!  I'm gonna need some sort of an intervention after this is all over.  That feels like too abrupt of a transition for me to gracefully, emotionally handle.

Well anyway, this gal here, this giraffe-midwife-wannabe, is hoping all goes well for April and her baby.

And it better be soon.


  1. I've checked on her a couple of times but must admit I'm not quite as intrigued as you are. I just want everything to go okay and the Mom and baby to be good. I'm sure I'll find out the news from you before I do elsewhere. Keep up the good work.