April the giraffe and her long-necked lover, Oliver, shared a touching moment this morning as the two longingly gazed at one another from above their pens.
The mom-to-be and fan favorite of millions around the globe is "in great condition" despite the blistering cold spell gripping the tri-state this weekend, the upstate New York zoo live-streaming her pen said.
A photo posted by the Harpursville Animal Adventure Park shows dark, rough-looking spots, or wax caps, decorating April's under belly. The wax caps seal colostrum in the udder to ensure that there will be enough for the calf's first nursing, according to the zoo.
"Wax caps are what develops on the teats of the udder to keep colostrum in the udder, to ensure that it is [sic] there for baby's first nursing," the zoo wrote. "Caps are shed just prior or during delivery, or can be removed by the suckle of the baby."
April's restless calf was at it again early Sunday morning from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. and again around 7 a.m., her keepers said.
The hungry giant demands a crunchy carrot before every vet visit as a "toll" to enter her stall for an exam, the zoo said Friday.
"Appetites have been strong!" The Harpursville Animal Adventure Park posted on Facebook late Thursday. "When our Vet stopped in today...Apil demands a "toll" before entering her stall for an exam!"
Due to the extreme cold, the giraffes will remain inside, but the zoo encouraged followers to sit tight, stay warm and relax.
The weather also interrupted the zoo's popular livestream. High winds interrupted the signal, but the zoo started another live video (available below).
We may not have to wait much longer for the birth of her calf. The zoo said Friday morning that April's handlers were "elated to have captured the calf kicking out!"
"April continues to have us all on edge; when will it be - we just don't know!" the zoo wrote. "All physical signs show we are ready for 'launch sequence.' So, we continue to patiently wait."
Keepers felt baby kicks, and viewers noticed an increase in tail-raising due to pressure from an unknown source. The long-necked beauty gave followers a special 18-inch message Friday — she playfully stuck out her purple and blue tongue for the camera.
Tens of millions of fans across the world have been hooked to the live stream for weeks now as they wait for April to deliver. The mama giraffe “continues to progress,” the zoo said — though a winter storm and more “baby kicks” may make April a bit anxious in the coming days.
Watch the live stream below.
April has had periods of edginess in recent weeks brought on by stretches of cold weather and her active calf, which was busy kicking away Thursday night, the zoo said. The zoo noted viewers may have noticed “increased tail raising” from April, likely due to the pressure of her growing baby.
Nevertheless, April is in “great physical and mental condition,” and the vets who have been monitoring her say they’re pleased with her progression.
April's pregnancy was catapulted into global headlines late last month after YouTube briefly yanked the zoo's stream following complaints by animal activists that it violated the site's policies concerning "nudity and sexual content." Thousands upon thousands of commenters voiced their frustration on Facebook and YouTube, and the stream was restored within an hour or so.
About 70,000 people were watching the YouTube stream by 8 a.m. Friday as April once again slinked over to her mate Oliver's pen, necking with him coyishly over the top as she swished her tail.
Jordan Patch, owner of the Animal Adventure Park, says the natural curiosity surrounding giraffes and their birthing process has been a huge factor in drawing crowds.
"I think the fact that she's a giraffe and she's a neat species that people are interested in, that's fostered a lot of the attention," he said. "The fact that you're gonna get to witness the miracle of birth from an animal that you really don't get to see give birth — that's neat."
He added that April's pregnancy is not just live entertainment, but a teachable moment and source for education.
Giraffe pregnancies last up to 15 months. Labor lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The calf, which will be the first born at Animal Adventure Park, will be about 150 pounds and 6 feet tall at birth and up and walking in about an hour.
The zoo said it will hold an online competition to name the baby giraffe once it's born.