The wait may soon be over for a mother-to-be giraffe and her millions of human admirers.
More than a month overdue, April, the 15-year-old giraffe, has started to show signs that she is close to giving birth, zookeepers at New York state’s Animal Adventure Park said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
A successful baby giraffe birth would be a first for the park and the second in the United States in a matter of weeks, after the Denver Zoo in Colorado delivered a male named Dobby on Feb. 28.
The baby giraffe in waiting, April’s fourth and her mate Oliver’s first calf, is expected to weigh around 150 pounds and stand about 6 feet tall at birth, according to the park officials. Its name will be decided in an online competition, the park said.
The pregnant giraffe has captured global attention in recent weeks, as millions have tuned into the park’s YouTube livestream of April in her enclosed pen with Oliver nearby since it went online at the end of February.
Jordan Patch, owner of Animal Adventure Park in rural Harpursville, N.Y., views the livestream video as an educational tool.
“By bringing awareness,” of these animals, Mr. Patch said in a Facebook Live video, “we can bring conservation and preservation to giraffes in the wild.”
These world’s tallest mammals were reclassified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in December 2016, mostly due to habitat loss.
Usually found in dry savanna zones south of Africa’s Sahara desert, giraffes were previously labeled in the “least concern” category. Yet, with populations diminishing nearly 40 percent over the past 30 years to nearly 100,000 individuals, biologists warned that the tallest land animal is at risk of extinction.
The status of giraffes might be even more dire, say scientists who recently discovered that one population of giraffes thought to be a single species, were in fact four distinct subspecies.
“This changes the status of the giraffe in terms of how endangered they are," Axel Janke, a geneticist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity who conducted the new research, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Eva Botkin-Kowacki in September.
Researchers hope this revelation could transform how conservation efforts view giraffes and help shape new strategies.
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.