April could be seen in her stall on live camera cleaning off and watching over her new offspring.
More than a million people were watching the live footage as April gave birth, according to the Washington Post. The video had gained mounting national interest over the past few months, with some social media conspiracy theorists even suggesting that the whole thing was a hoax. Giraffes are typically pregnant for 13 to 15 months.
YouTube briefly removed the video in late February after receiving complaints that it contained “nudity and sexual content.” Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch blamed the false reports on “animal rights activists” he said were opposed to keeping animals in captivity.
Though it’s unclear who was truly to blame, some animal rights activists have expressed concern for April’s situation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemned the livestream and said the newborn giraffe would be denied a natural life.
The zoo has defended the practice as raising awareness for giraffe conservation, and says that their giraffes lead happy lives. A note on the livestream YouTube page states that April’s food, water, and enrichment activities like toys are out of the view of the camera. They also note that the reason April was in her indoor stall for much of February and March was because of the cold weather outside. Photos and videos showed April and the father of the calf, Oliver, being able to go back outdoors during the month of April.
The livestream became the subject of more controversy as the zoo began to more actively monetize the pregnancy. The zoo, which is for-profit and non-accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has raised more than $100,000 on a GoFundMe page linked to April.
Animal Adventure Park has also picked up a Toys ‘R’ Us sponsorship, launched a line of April the Giraffe merchandise, and offered a paid subscription service to get messages to get real-time text message alerts about April. Numerous April fans felt that the exclusive text message service introduced an unfair divide between those who could pay and those who couldn’t, the Washington Post reported.
The zoo says that all money raised will go towards animal care, and that extra funds will go towards improving their giraffe facilities and installing a permanent giraffe livecam.
Animal Adventure Park has also announced plans to hold a naming contest for the new giraffe. According to PressConnects, the zoo expects to launch another GoFundMe page on Saturday, allowing people to suggest a name if they donate $1. The public can then vote on six finalists on social media. The zoo says they will split the money between giraffe care and donations to giraffe conservation efforts.