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April the giraffe's baby calf is born

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/15/2017 Katie Sullivan and Sean Rossman

At 9:53 a.m. ET, April the giraffe, whose lengthy pregnancy captivated thousands, gave birth to a baby calf at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y.

The baby calf plopped out of its mom and wiggled on the ground before sitting up, its mother nuzzling the newborn calf. Within an hour of birth, the calf was standing.

Park owner Jordan Patch said staff noticed the 15-year-old reticulated giraffe was in labor about 7:30 a.m. The zoo went live on Facebook about 8 a.m., announcing the development. By that time, two of the calf's hooves were seen sticking out of April.

About 9:30 a.m., the head appeared, and the calf dropped out minutes later, ending weeks of waiting for many who kept up with April through the zoo's livestream

"We're going to let Mom and baby do their thing for a little bit," Patch announced on Facebook Live shortly after the birth. "Perfect delivery, perfect fall."

The gender of the baby giraffe was unclear, as park employees did not interrupt the mother and baby in the stall. The zoo said it will soon provide an update on the calf's gender.

At the time of the birth, about 1.2 million people watched live on YouTube and nearly 750,000 watched from the zoo’s Facebook page. The livestream will remain up for the next five days, Patch said. From there, the zoo will find another way to keep people updated on the calf's development.

April the Giraffe is in labor, Animal Adventure Park confirms through Facebook. © USA TODAY April the Giraffe is in labor, Animal Adventure Park confirms through Facebook. Now comes the time to name the baby giraffe. Patch said the public will be able to  help choose the calf's name through a monetary vote. Anyone interested in casting a vote for a name can nominate it for $1 on the park's GoFundMe page, which is expected to be launched Saturday. Money raised will be divided between giraffe conservation in the wild, giraffe care at Animal Adventure and and an annual fundraiser named Ava's Little Heroes. Six names will be selected for a social media naming contest.

April had been pregnant for about 16 months. We don't know the size of the calf yet, but  ABC Denver reported the calf would be about 150 pounds and stand 6-feet-tall at birth. 

Giraffes give birth while standing up, according to Animal Planet, meaning the calf takes a six-foot, head-first fall to the ground. The channel's FAQ on giraffe births said the fall, "breaks the amniotic sac, severs the umbilical cord, and most importantly encourages the calf to take its first breaths."

Once the calf is on the ground, Animal Channel explained, the mother cleans it off. The calf then takes its first steps in just a few minutes and is able to run by the end of its first day on Earth.

That game plan appeared to happen in the case of April. The calf came out head first and fell to the ground. Within minutes it was sitting up and moving its neck and head. 

The calf is the third giraffe to call Animal Adventure's giraffe barn home. April came to the park in September 2015. Five-year-old Oliver is the calf's father, and was the park's first giraffe when he arrived four months before April in May 2015. 

The calf likely won't stay long at Animal Adventure with its mom and dad. After April has raised her baby naturally and it has weaned itself after six to 12 months, it will move on to another facility for safety purposes

The birth of a baby giraffe is a big deal, considering they are "vulnerable" to extinction. Giraffe population has dipped about 40% over the last three decades, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Josh Hafner contributed to this article. 

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman



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