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Giraffe's baby gives zoo a financial bump

April the giraffe has brought a bundle of joy to a small zoo in rural New York, thanks to a YouTube livestream of her pregnancy and birth of a calf that riveted viewers around the world.

Owners of the Animal Adventure Park have not said exactly how much additional revenue they have enjoyed from the publicity surrounding April, but internet marketing experts conservatively estimate the haul to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The money will be used for zoo upkeep, wildlife conservation in Africa, and a favourite cause of the zoo's founders - local children with unexpected medical expenses.

"The monies are going to allow the park to continue to grow and improve," said Jordan Patch, who started the 20-acre zoo with his wife four years ago in Harpursville, about 130 miles north-west of New York City.

"But also the money will help support our conservation efforts in Africa, so we're actually providing tangible results for wild giraffes."

The ventures include the Toys 'R' Us-sponsored YouTube stream, text messaging, a clothing line and the sale of T-shirts, caps and furry toys.

Mr Patch said a Gofundme campaign has raised more than 150,000 US dollars (£117,000) for the care of April, her mate Oliver and their male calf, as well as upgrades to their exhibit space.

And he expects 150,000 park visitors - twice as many as last year - to pay to see the giraffe family along with the park's 200 other animals, including alligators, monkeys and zebras.

Neither Mr Patch nor Toys 'R' Us, which features a giraffe as its corporate mascot, would talk about how many dollars were attached to April's video stream.

After coming online on February 23, it has become the second most-watched livestream in YouTube history with more than 232 million views and 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time.

Digital media analysts say the money alone may be beside the point.

"Every marketer dreams of getting something that will go viral," said Allen Adamson of Brand Simple Consulting, which helps companies define and market their brand.

"The real value is the way the organisation has been cemented in millions of people's minds in a compelling way. You can't buy advertising like that."

Still, some YouTube followers have complained about some of the park's approach to the animal's birth, such as the 5 US dollars (£3.90) charge to sign up for giraffe news text alerts and 1 US dollar (78p) to vote for a baby name that will be announced on May 1.

The park is also selling 20 US dollars (£15.60) "Hello Baby" tote bags, 16 US dollars (£12.50) "April's View Crew" T-shirts, and a 50 US dollars (£39) three-pack of giraffe prints.

Toys 'R' Us, which is driving traffic to its own Facebook page with exclusive video visits to the park, is coming out with new giraffe plush toys based on April's family.

Other businesses in the surrounding Southern Tier of New York, which has struggled economically in recent years with the loss of manufacturing jobs, are also hoping for a baby bump.

"We're booking fast and furious," said Eddie Bello, assistant general manager at the Doubletree Hilton in nearby Binghamton. The hotel has sold more than 200 special lodging packages that include park tickets, a toy giraffe and other goodies stuffed in a miniature wooden crate.

"The response has been huge," said Judi Hess, director of the Greater Binghamton Convention and Visitors Bureau, adding that inquiries have come in from as far away as Britain.

Mr Patch said he did not expect his pregnant giraffe to become a global sensation.

The livestream was intended to free up park staff to tend to their daily duties like feeding rather than fielding inquiries about April's pregnancy.

As for the 6ft calf, after he has weaned from his mother he will be sent to another zoo to help sire more offspring.



From Belfast Telegraph