April the Giraffe, the beloved animal that captured the world's attention in 2017 while giving birth to her calf on livestream, was euthanized Friday because of advancing arthritis, the zoo said.
“She is a precious member of our family, and while we knew this day would eventually come, our hearts are hurting,” Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch said in a statement.
The 20-year-old giraffe started showing signs of mobility problems last summer, and veterinary imaging showed she had arthritis in her feet and problems in her left hind leg, the zoo’s veterinarians said in a statement. They noted that animals as large as giraffes can deteriorate quickly from arthritis.
They said they deployed joint supplements, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, padded flooring, diet changes and trimming April’s hoofs to try to slow the disease’s progression, but her mobility kept declining, and she started spending a lot more time lying down. Imaging in March showed “significant and progressing degeneration” of joints in her lower leg, the vets said.
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“The severity of her condition has been outpacing our ability to control April’s comfort,” they said.
"At the celebrated age of 20 years old, April was in her golden years, with the captive management life expectancy averaging 20-25 years, far greater than the average lifespan of 10-15 years in the wild," the park wrote on Facebook.
April attracted a huge online audience as she carried her fourth calf in 2017 at the privately owned zoo in Harpursville, a village about 130 miles northwest of New York City. The giraffe cam became the second most-watched livestream in YouTube history, at least at the time, with more than 232 million views and 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time over several months.
At least 1.2 million people watched as the male calf, eventually named Tajiri, was born — appropriately enough — in the month of April. An online fundraising campaign pulled in more than $150,000 for the care of April, her mate and the calf. Other ventures — including a Toys ‘R’ Us sponsorship of the YouTube stream, monetized text messages and a clothing line — also brought money to the zoo. The owners said it would be used for zoo upkeep, wildlife conservation in Africa and local children with unexpected medical expenses.
“April’s impact on animal conservation and appreciation is both immeasurable and lasting,” Patch said Friday.
The famed giraffe became a mother of five in 2019 when she gave birth to Azizi, who tragically died in October 2020 of an "unexpected and unpreventable" condition.
April was taken to the Cornell University Veterinary School for a necropsy, the zoo said. Once the necropsy is completed, April will be cremated and returned to Animal Adventure Park.