Over these weeks of "giraffe watch," a lot of questions have been asked about April and her situation specifically. So we finally have some answers for you.
Reporters at our sister station in Washington D.C. spoke with Jordan Patch of Animal Adventure Park. Patch answered all of their questions regarding April and her birthing experience.
We already had the general giraffe facts, such as their height weight and that they give birth standing up (which you can also read below). We also knew giraffes are pregnant for about 15 months and that calves come out hooves-first.
But what we didn't have information on April herself. After all, she is the star of the moment.
Here are some questions Patch answered about April and the video everyone is watching.
How old is April? We learned that April is 15 years old. In natural habitats, a giraffe's life span is about 15 years. However when in human care that can extend to 20-27 years old. Patch explained that April is in good and strong condition that not only is her life span expected to go well past the 15 years, depending on how she handles her fourth birth, she could possibly be fit enough to have more calves.
How long has April been with Animal Adventure Park? April has been with Animal Adventure Park since September 2015 and this is her first calf birth at the park. Once her calf is born and she is done nursing it, he or she will move on to another facility as it's rare to keep family members together with fear of incest.
Is April actually in labor? There's been a lot of speculation of how long April has been in labor and if she's actually contracting. Patch explained that it's not very likely that you will be able to tell April's labor until you see an actual hoof begin to poke out of her rear-end. Giraffe's instinctively hide their labor for however long it's lasting in order to not draw attention from predators who will wait out a giraffe's labor in order to attack once the calf is born.
One sign of active labor is when the giraffe's water breaks. It can be anywhere from a slow trickle of liquid to a flow of mucus.
Then why is the feed up if we're not sure when the calf is coming? Animal Adventure Park is currently in its off-season so the park is closed to visitors. People who've visited the park in pervious months knew of April's pregnancy and the park has been receiving inquiries about her giving birth. Animal Adventure felt this was a good way to keep those who wanted to follow along with April informed.
Is the calf a boy or girl? Animal Adventure says their ultrasound equipment cannot tell the sex of the calf.
When is April actually due? April's tentative due day was mid-February. She is very close but it could still be hours or days.
Why is Oliver kept separate from April? Male giraffes instinctively care about three things. Mating, fighting and eating. Oliver is only allowed inside with April a little at a time and under close supervision. Otherwise, he could be a danger to April and her calf by either fighting her, attempting to mate with her or eating her food. So he's only allowed to be a supportive father from a distance.
Male giraffes also are not part of the child rearing process.
How can we tell if April is contracting? As explained, giraffes are pros and hiding their labor until it becomes active and the calf begins coming out. But Patch explains there are certain signs he looks for that he believes are her contractions. That's movement in the hips, straightening of the neck and her stomach movement, which is the calf moving inside.
When can we submit names for the baby? Once the calf is born and the sex is determined, Animal Adventures will post a contest announcement on their social media platforms where you can submit your name suggestions.
Here is additional information that Animal Adventure Park has already released about April on its YouTube channel.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- April is 15 - her 4th calf
- April has never lost a calf nor had a stillborn - odd rumor
- Oliver is 5 - his 1st calf
- They have some of the biggest pens in the nation (sq ft per animal). We take pride in our indoor housing and the level of enrichment and care to keep them happy and healthy.
- The calf will weigh around 150lb and will be about 6' tall at birth.
- The front hooves will come out first followed by the snout.
- Mom will naturally raise the calf, with weaning could take between 6-10 months, maybe longer. We will not rush this process – it is just a documented range of captive weaning.
- Once the calf is born, we will have a contest to name it.
- The keepers will go in with April, clean her pen, give her treats (but not Oliver). He is a bull - and a bull is a bull is a bull!
- Giraffes are pregnant for 15 months
- Upon naturally weaning, the calf will move on to another facility to start a breeding program there. We cannot retain offspring, as it would lead to incestuous mating and undermine the genetics of the program and species.
- Those "things" on their heads are called ossicones.
- Bulls (male giraffes) only really care about two things- fighting and the unmentionable....
- Oliver may share space with April, but for short periods. Bulls take no part in rearing young.
- They eat hay and specialized giraffe diet but love romaine lettuce and carrot treats.
- April's water source, enrichment, and solo hay feeder are out of sight of the camera view.
- This is Animal Adventure's first giraffe calf.