April the Pregnant Giraffe: The Giraffe Love Continues
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Last week I was at Walt Disney World with my husband and kids and as we stood inside the Twinings Tea Shop in Epcot and waited to take a free tea tour, I glanced over at a woman next to me and out of the corner of my eye caught the Toys R’ Us logo on the bottom left side of her phone. I turned to sneak another look at her phone and confirmed that she was indeed sitting in the tea shop, live streaming April the Giraffe from Animal Adventure Park.
I caught her eye and said, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one checking on her while we are down here!”
As I write this blog my family is probably planning my giraffe intervention. I will admit I check on her…a lot.
I talk about her…a lot.
I think about her…a lot.
I randomly share giraffe facts that the keepers at Animal Adventure Park have shared or that I’ve Googled…a lot.
I have started to just call her April instead of April the Giraffe and refer to her in casual conversation, like when I wanted to sit on the ground on our last of four theme park days and 15 miles of walking each day and all of my joints hurt. “I feel like April when she tries to lay down!” I said, as they all rolled their eyes and commented that they were pretty sure I didn’t mean our human friend with the same name.
During our Spring Break trip our first stop was to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we went on the Kilimanjaro Safari twice. Both times we got to see an adolescent giraffe and several adults, and on the second trip we were treated to a giraffe running rather quickly across the grassy area. As an animal lover I’ve always loved Animal Kingdom but somehow my new appreciation of giraffes, especially knowing that they are so endangered, made me look forward to that part of the trip more than any other.
When we went to the Festival of the Lion King show our daughter declared, “Ok, you have a serious problem!” when I asked which area we needed to sit in to be in the giraffe section. If you’ve ever attended that show, you know that the crowd is broken into four groups: warthogs, giraffes, elephants and lions. Guess where we sat?
As we wandered around the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area I happened upon a goat that was going through the Flehmen sequence of testing another goat’s urine and happily reported to my family that I knew what he was doing. As a dog blogger and as…well, as me, a person with many random facts floating around in her head, they are not surprised by some of the things that come out of my mouth that maybe should have stayed in my head, but I think the comment, “Hey, I just saw a goat doing the Flehmen sequence and drinking her pee to see if the female was fertile!” was still a bit of a surprise.
When we shopped at Disney Springs and I wore my very unofficial t-shirt that I bought from TeeSpring that has a plump pink giraffe with a heart and just the words The Wait 2017, the entire staff of Vera Bradley came to talk to me to find out where I had purchased it. They happily explained that they had just finished a conversation about April and their own obsession with following her journey to motherhood and loved my shirt.
Fortunately for my family, after those three days the giraffe talk calmed down a bit and our family bonding time continued with me snatching views here and there of April, Oliver and the humans we have grown so used to watching come into their barn. The teens have told me, “You know, if you really want to see a baby giraffe being born, there are a ton of other videos on YouTube!” I have tried to explain that it stopped being about just wanting to see any old giraffe being born a very long time ago. Now it is more about April than even perhaps about her calf.
Last month I wrote about why so many of us are captivated by this one particular giraffe in my blog April the Pregnant Giraffe: Why We Love Her So Much. A little over a month later I find myself looking at her with a tenderness I feel when I look at my dogs. There’s something about this girl’s temperament that seems to shine through the simple webcam in her stall and right into your heart.
I found a page on the website of the place where she was born that was called the Catskill Game Farm in Catskill, New York, a place my family must have driven past every time we went up to our winter and summer vacations in Warrensburg, New York. Of course back then I was all about the horses that I would spend the week riding at Ridin’ Hy Ranch, not wondering if there were giraffes anywhere nearby.
Now called The Old Game Farm, the site says that April was born and bottle raised at that park and that she has an exceptionally sweet nature that not all giraffes have, even saying that she has a “soft approach” with other creatures like humans. I think it is that “soft approach” that we can see through the camera.
We see it when her female handler Alyssa is with her, giving her nuzzles and kissing that giant baby bump. We see it when she raises her big beautiful head for leaves of romaine lettuce and carrots. We see it in the silly faces she makes when she is reaching for her treats and it melts our hearts the same way our dogs do when they are just doing dog things. When April is simply doing normal giraffe things, we fall in love with her a little more. Of course some of us have been lucky to see her laying on the ground with her head resting on her belly bump, one of the most emotionally beautiful things I have ever seen an animal do.
There is a tenderness to this giant creature with the long neck and legs as she playfully tosses her hay in the air, when she stares out the windows that are perfect giraffe height, when she and Oliver touch heads over their shared wall. Her expression on her face just seems kind and serene and when she’s walking around wiggling her ears she seems sweet, vulnerable and in possession of a beautiful soul, like even though she has hooves that can kill a lion or break another giraffe’s jaw with her huge strong neck, she would never hurt anyone.
In my blog and in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I frequently marvel at the beautiful love and friendship that spans our different species. When it comes down to it, the fact that we could harm each other but do not, is critical to those friendships, to that love and trust that we share with our dogs just like April the Giraffe has with her handlers.
We get to see this love and trust in our own relationships with our dogs on a daily basis, but to see this with an animal like a giraffe is something entirely new and special and is one of the reasons so many of us are glued to our screens. I know that I am personally grateful to the team at Animal Adventure Park for allowing us to witness the beautiful relationship that they share with April. That simple webcam has filled our hearts and souls with love, wonder, and joy as we watch their beloved giraffe prepare to have her calf.
Watch April the Giraffe here at the Animal Adventure Park YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q/live