World waits on edge as April the pregnant giraffe becomes live-stream sensation
Last month, Beyonce shattered a Guinness World Record for most-liked image on Instagram when she announced - with intimate, belly-bearing photos - that she was pregnant.
It became one of the most obsessed-over, closely monitored celebrity pregnancies in recent memory. But now, it seems as though a mother-to-be in upstate New York may be close to upstaging her.
Her name is April, and she is a giraffe. Her home is in the US, at Animal Adventure Park in New York.
Watching her get up, sit down, move left, move right, stand and sit down again would seem to be a lot less interesting than watching Beyonce.
Still, hundreds of thousands of people have been watching the zoo's live video stream, night and day, as April goes about her business in her hay-strewn stall. Her mate, Oliver, lives in an adjacent pen.
All this sounds innocent enough.
But that didn't stop someone from complaining to YouTube that it was "sexually explicit" content with nudity, prompting YouTube to take down the live stream on February 23.
The park owner was incensed. In a video posted on the zoo's Facebook page, Jordan Patch blamed "a handful of extremists and animal rights activists."
In the 12 hours before it was removed, the live "giraffe cam" YouTube video stream had gotten more than 20 million views, Patch said. As is often the case, the censorship attracted headlines and only got more people interested in April.
The video stream was soon allowed back up, and now even more viewers are keenly awaiting April's much-anticipated labour. She's about a month overdue, Patch said in a Facebook update Wednesday. He added that the initial timeline for the birth - based on April's breeding behaviour - may have been slightly off.
"She's large, she's still in charge, and no baby yet," the zoo said in the post. The giraffe had not experienced much physical change that day, but there was significant movement once again in the belly, and the approaching cold front might "shake things up," the post said.
"The world waits on edge ... and April smirks with a mouthful of cud," the zoo wrote in its post.
When born, the calf will weigh about 150 pounds, will be about 6 feet tall, and will leave its mother with its front hooves out first, followed by its snout, according to the zoo. April will raise the calf for 6 to 10 months or longer before it is moved to another facility to start a breeding program there.
The zoo is accepting submissions for a naming contest for the calf but, Patch insisted, the contest will not be completed until the calf is born. "We're a little superstitious," Patch said. "You don't count your chickens before they hatch."
In the video posted Wednesday on Facebook, the park owner also debunked several myths and addressed a number of concerns he had received from viewers. For example, he said, many live-streamers have been worried about how long it takes for April to lower herself to sit down.
"Ladies out there," Patch said. "If you've been nine months pregnant, and you've had to bend over and tie your shoes, it's hard."
He encouraged fans to keep watching April "if you have the time," but added: "If you don't have the time to watch the cam, don't put your life on hold, and certainly don't complain about your lack of time management anymore."
One viewer commented on the zoo's Facebook page that she had been watching the giraffe for a whole week.
"I'm malnourished and dehydrated ... my dog is turning fat because I just can't stop watching and he's being neglected," the Facebook user posted. "I know April's bowel habits, I know how many spots she has, I know her routine. Please April for my own sanity have this baby soon."
A Twitter and meme craze has taken off, with social media users embracing the hashtag #AprilTheGiraffe to revel in their anticipation.
The British actor Tom Hiddleston even narrated April's morning routine for BBC Radio 1, describing her movements with a dramatic, smooth voice reminiscent of a nature documentary.
"She's taking a walk around her room," he said. "Look at that magnificent long neck."
"She takes a bow," he added. "She knows the world is watching. It's breakfast time."
Even at 4am Thursday, while a great deal of the Western hemisphere slept, more than 45,000 viewers remained tuned in to April's live stream, watching her slowly drift from one corner of her pen to another, reaching her neck down to grab a piece of hay and lowering herself to sit down in the centre of the pen.
The pregnant giraffe slowly teetered to the ground before coming to a seated position.
Alas, no labour yet. We would have to keep waiting.
- The Washington Post