April the giraffe, an internet sensation who gave birth nearly four years ago as an audience of millions watched via livestream, and helped educate the public about her species, died on Friday, Animal Adventure Park, her home, announced.
Giraffes in captivity have an average life expectancy of 20 to 25 years; their life span in the wild is about 10 to 15 years.
April attracted more than 16 million viewers on April 15, 2017, as the animal park live-streamed her giving birth on YouTube to her youngest, Tajiri, who is male. The park had been drawing viewers for months as they checked on April’s pregnancy, which staff members began to livestream in the winter.
April’s large and dedicated online following brought attention to the park and the rural community of Harpursville, N.Y., about 185 miles northwest of New York City. The park has about 2,300 animals, including alligators, bison, camels and wolves.
The birth of Tajiri also put a spotlight on the species, which some experts have said is in need of conservation.
“April’s impact on animal conservation and appreciation is both immeasurable and lasting,” Jordan Patch, the owner of the park, said on Facebook. “April, in her own special way, changed the world.”
Before April’s pregnancy, many people were not aware that there are more elephants in Africa than giraffes, said Tanya Sanerib, the international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which seeks to protect land and animals. There are about 111,000 giraffes in Africa, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
The attention lavished on April came as the center, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and others sought to strengthen protections for giraffes.
That effort continues as conservation and animal protection groups filed a notice of intent in October to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “for failing to consider Endangered Species Act protections for Africa’s rapidly dwindling giraffe population,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Wildlife experts worry about a continued decline in the species. There’s a demand in the United States for giraffe bones, which are used for handles on guns or knives.
“We are potentially a part of the problem,” Ms. Sanerib said. “We’re driving demand for the species and leading to its demise.”
While it may take a while for experts to see an increase in the giraffe population, Ms. Sanerib said April’s impact can be measured in the willingness by the public to get educated about the species.
Giraffe products are now regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, an international treaty that helps prevent animals from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade. While trading is still allowed, countries have to take measures to ensure the market does not detrimentally affect giraffe populations.
“She’s done a tremendous amount for her species by elevating the silent extinction of giraffes,” Ms. Sanerib said on Saturday, calling April “a champion” for giraffes.
Some animals in captivity, like April, are known to get arthritis, Ms. Sanerib said. The staff at Animal Adventure Park last summer began reporting changes in April’s mobility, the park’s veterinary team said. Veterinarians noted an onset of osteoarthritis and began to treat April with a variety of remedies, including pain medications, hoof trimming and diet changes, and they installed padded flooring for her.
Over time, they noticed April’s mobility decline, prompting them to re-evaluate her condition and leading to “the determination that euthanasia was the humane and appropriate course of action,” the park said.
Her body was taken to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where it will be examined. She will be cremated and her ashes returned to the park.
“The loss of an animal as loved as her will be felt in our community, around the country and across the world,” Mr. Patch said.