'April the giraffe' feed goes dark as park ends live stream

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After giving birth in front of an audience of millions, April the giraffe now has some privacy.  Animal Adventure Park has turned off the live streaming ‘giraffe-cam,' ending a 70-day run as a top internet sensation.

Park staff gathered in April's pen Friday afternoon to wave goodbye moments before ending the popular YouTube live stream.

"Thank you for joining us on this journey.  It's certainly not over; it's just the end of the first chapter here," park owner Jordan Patch said in a live Facebook video moments earlier.

It was all the way back in December when the New York park began posting updates on their pregnant giraffe.  The live YouTube stream came online in February, when keepers thought birth was near.  As April’s belly got bigger, so did the audience – but no baby arrived.

Keepers at the park were caught off-guard by the sudden attention – some of it unwanted. After YouTube temporarily pulled the plug on the feed, Patch blamed "extremists and animal right activists" but vowed to continue the stream as a way of educating people about giraffe conservation.

The live stream soon returned, and before long, the park’s twice-daily Facebook updates became must-see TV for millions of people around the world.  Entire virtual communities formed, regularly sharing observations on everything from April’s apparent mood to the size and status of her nether regions.

Fans felt like they were on a first-name basis with Jordan Patch, keeper Alyssa, and veterinarian Dr. Tim.

"People fell in love with April and we can't blame them," Patch told FOX 13 this week. "People became emotionally invested into her journey and her pregnancy and into the unborn calf.”

Saturday morning, April finally went into labor.  As dad Oliver paced in his nearby stall, millions of people joined him via the webcam and watched as the baby – a boy, it turned out – arrived.

When keepers got the chance to measure him, the ‘little’ guy weighed in at 129 pounds and measured 5 feet, 9 inches tall.  He still doesn’t have a name; the park is conducting a poll to solicit ideas.  Eventually, he’ll be sent to another park as part of the species conservation program, but it could be a few years before that happens.   

Meanwhile, the park is getting ready to open for the season, with the expectation of an influx of new visitors.  That’s one of the reasons they decided to end the webcam feed, Patch said.  But they’ve pledged to continue updating their many new fans on April, Oliver, and the new baby.

"We would like to thank the millions of supporters that have made this journey fun, engaging and magical for so many throughout the world," Patch said in a press release announcing the sign-off.  "We are eternally grateful for every person that tuned in and shared a part of their lives with all of us at Animal Adventure Park."

Love April? Check out these giraffe stories:

- 'Giraffe mom' meets giraffe mom, bringing internet's giraffe obsession full circle

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'Bogey' the baby giraffe at Memphis Zoo

Expecting mother reenacts 'giraffe watch' in hilarious spoof

VIDEO: Chester Zoo giraffe gives birth to calf

Giraffe mom shares new photos of baby

Denver's baby giraffe being nursed to full health

Meet the Maryland Zoo's new baby giraffe


- Animal Adventure Park's April website