April The giraffe, an internet sensation born to millions of livestream viewers nearly four years ago that helped educate the public about their species, died on Friday, Animal Adventure Park, their home, said.
Vets were euthanized in April after their arthritis worsened, the park said. April, who fathered five calves in her life, was 20 years old when she died, the park said on Facebook.
Giraffes in captivity have an average life expectancy of 20 to 25 years; Their lifespan in the wild is around 10 to 15 years.
April drew more than 16 million viewers on April 15, 2017 when the zoo streamed them live on YouTube to give birth to their youngest husband, Tajiri, who is male. The park had drawn viewers for months as they checked the April pregnancy, which staff began livestreaming over the winter.
April’s large and dedicated online following brought attention to the park and rural community of Harpursville, NY, about 185 miles northwest of New York City. The park has approximately 2,300 animals including alligators, bison, camels, and wolves.
The birth of Tajiri has also put the spotlight on the species that some experts believe is in need of conservation.
“April’s impact on animal welfare and appreciation is both immeasurable and sustainable,” said Jordan Patch, owner of the park, on Facebook. “April changed the world in its own special way.”
Before the pregnancy in April, many people were unaware that there are more elephants than giraffes in Africa, said Tanya Sanerib, the international legal director of the Center for Biodiversity, which aims to protect land and animals. There are approximately 111,000 giraffes in Africa, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
The attention that caught in April came when the center, the United States Humane Society, Humane Society International, and others sought to strengthen conservation for giraffes.
These efforts continue as conservation and animal welfare groups filed a letter of intent in October to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service “for failing to protect the Endangered Species Act’s protection of Africa’s rapidly declining giraffe population,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Wildlife experts fear an ongoing decline in species. There is a demand in the United States for giraffe bones, which are used for handles on weapons or knives.
“We may be part of the problem,” said Ms. Sanerib. “We drive demand for the species and lead to its demise.”
While it may take a while for experts to see an increase in the giraffe population, Ms. Sanerib said the impact of April can be measured by the public’s willingness to learn about the species.
Giraffe products are now governed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that helps prevent animals from becoming endangered or extinct as a result of international trade. While trading is still allowed, countries must take steps to ensure the market does not adversely affect giraffe populations.
“She has done a tremendous amount for her species by increasing the silent extinction of giraffes,” Ms. Sanerib said Saturday, calling April “a champion” for giraffes.
Some animals in captivity, like April, have been known to develop arthritis, Ms. Sanerib said. Animal Adventure Park staff reported changes in mobility in April last summer, the park’s veterinary team said. Vets noted an osteoarthritis outbreak and began treating April with a variety of means, including pain relievers, hoof trims, and diet changes. They laid padded floors for them.
Over time, they noticed the decline in mobility in April, which prompted them to re-evaluate their condition and determine that “euthanasia is the most humane and appropriate practice,” the park said.
Her body was taken to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine for examination. She is cremated and her ashes returned to the park.
“The loss of an animal as loved as her will be felt in our community, across the country, and around the world,” said Patch.