Round off the end of the month with these stories from the animal kingdom. You might want to get some tissues ready, because April’s news round-up contains some real tear-jerkers…
April the Giraffe FINALLY Gives Birth!
(Picture from www.aprilthegiraffe.com)
Kicking off our list is the news we’ve all been waiting for – April the giraffe has finally given birth to a healthy baby calf! The video stream of a very pregnant April has been live on NBC4’s Facebook page since the 22nd of February, garnering hundreds of thousands of views at a time. People around the world would wait with baited breath, hoping to witness the moment April would give birth – but, despite uniting all walks of like across the globe, April’s live stream also inspired a bit of controversy…as well as other unusual stunts and homages.
While a majority of viewers would leave messages of support for the mother giraffe (‘You can do it, April!’ ‘We believe in you!’), others quickly grew cynical, presuming that there was an ulterior motive for this live stream. Was April ever even pregnant? Was this just a publicity stunt to gain money from viewers? Or, worse, was this live stream set up to (gulp) distract us from catastrophe and political disaster?
Obviously, most of these naysayer’s concerns were unfounded. With every heart-warming instance which hits the news, there will always be a decent percentage of conspiracy theorists trying to dampen otherwise good spirits. But could there be some truth in April’s pregnancy being a money-making scheme? Despite the fact that the giraffe was very clearly pregnant, her so-called labour (and the fact that she was due to give birth ‘any minute’, right from the 22nd of February until her actual delivery date of ____) was, indeed, unusual – and no sooner had the livestream become a viral sensation, the sponsorships from brands such as Toys R Us would soon come rushing in.
Despite what you may think of the motives behind NBC4’s choice to capitalise on the millions of views accrued, you have to admit that keeping up to date with April’s situation really was a nice distraction from the tribulations of everyday life (and no, we’re not implying anything sinister by saying that. It really was just good fun.) As such, copycats would begin to emerge – other zoos and sanctuaries around the world began to up their game when sharing pictures and videos of adorable new arrivals and, hilariously, even human beings jumped on the hype: namely, a South Carolinian lady named Erin Dietrich, who began livestreaming videos of herself pacing her bedroom while wearing a giraffe mask, and with her pregnant belly on full view. (Fun fact: Dietrich actually happened to give birth before April did.)
A situation like April’s is perhaps the first of its kind and, regardless of any surrounding controversies, the fact of the matter is that the story of a pregnant giraffe managed to bring millions of people together. Comments were left from viewers hailing from corners of the globe: Sheffield (UK) to Guangzhou (China); Colombia (South America) to Delhi (India.) April was a sensation, and when she eventually did give birth to her young calf, it really did feel as if the world was about to erupt with delight. Better yet was the fact that this long-overdue baby was born healthy, allowing April’s story to come to a satisfying and heartwarming close.
Now, only one thing remains: the naming of the young calf. What name would you give to April’s little bundle of joy?
This Baby Chick Was Given Shoes To Help It Walk
(Picture courtesy of Adam Tiernan)
Another sweet story comes to us from Iowa, USA, courtesy of Adam Tiernan and his family. The Tiernans keep chickens as a hobby, and recently decided to add to their flock by incubating a few fertilised eggs themselves. Of the bunch, only one egg proved viable for hatching – but sadly, the chick inside had real trouble making it out of the egg.
The chicken did manage to hatch, however her struggles meant that she was born with curled toes, disabling her from being able to walk or stand. Unwilling to give up on the little chick, the Tiernans did everything in their power to make life for this bird bearable.
After doing a little research on what to do in cases like this, the Tiernans decided to make the chick some custom shoes made out of tape, allowing the bird’s toes to be extended…and finally allowing her to get on her feet for the first time.
Soon enough, the little chick would zip around the place with ease, earning her the nickname ‘Nitro.’ Her feet have now straightened out, allowing her to kick off her shoes and experience the sensation of fresh grass beneath her feet as she explores the outdoors with her new friends.
Nitro’s story is one of perseverance, kindness and compassion, and we love that the Tiernans took the time to give this tiny bird another chance at life.
Shocking Discovery Made At Malaysian Airport
Sadly, not every story on today’s list can be so uplifting. Following a report last year from the trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, it was revealed that Malaysia is a major transport hub for the illegal trade of ivory, with much of this trade being made between Africa and Asia. So when 18 rhino horns were discovered during a customs check in Kuala Lumpur, it became immediately clear that the problem with poaching is still as prevalent as ever.
Weighing in at 113 pounds (51.4 kg), the overall ‘value’ of the horns totalled a staggering $3.1 million (13.6 million ringgit.) It is believed that the horns originated in Mozambique, transiting through Doha before eventually being seized at Kuala Lumpur. Airport officials state that the horns were kept in a crate falsely marked ‘artwork’, and that they had been meticulously cleaned to a there point where any smell or giveaways would be unlikely to be detected.
With only around 300,000 rhinos left in the world (and with some populations, such as the Javan rhinoceros, being particularly at risk), discoveries like this do hit hard, delivering a painful blow to the heart of conservation. It is thought that, due to the supposed ‘medicinal’ value of rhino tusks, the demand for such shipments is staggeringly high – as is the price that some buyers are willing to pay to get their hands on such an item.
Since March, over 103 rhino horns have been seized throughout Asia. It may be that an even higher volume of rhino horns make their way through customs, and more must be done to put an end to this cruel trade.
Elephant Numbers Down By 75%
According to a recent study from the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (University of Pretoria), illegal poaching activities throughout South Africa have resulted in the loss of an estimated 730,000 elephants – that’s 75% of the total number of elephants in protected areas.
These statistics are completely shocking, and it’s almost impossible to believe that only a quarter of the elephants now remain. Because of these observations, conservationists must re-evaluate priority areas for protection, as well as demand for vegetation and water.
Although many of us find these statistics distressing, the study’s lead author, Ashley Robson, aims to maintain an optimistic state of mind. ‘While the magnitude of loss due to poaching is devastating, I don’t see our work as more doom and gloom. On the contrary, we provide ecologically meaningful goals for elephant conservations to work towards.’
However, Robson also adds that the loss of elephants comes with wider implications. ‘Losing elephants is detrimental to our savannas, and the species that rely on them. While the conservation targets are a positive step, our study is a wake-up call. Around 70% of the current distributional range of African elephants falls beyond protected areas. The elephants aren’t doing well, even where protected.’
A Grandpa And His Cat – A Love Story
The final story this week is definitely an emotional one, and comes to us all the way from Japan. They say it’s never too late to find a new best friend – and for Jiji and Kinako, that fact could not be truer.
At 94 years old, Jiji is a family man who lives in Tokyo with his wife, as well as his granddaughter Akiko. Despite a long and happy life, however, Jiji was unfortunately diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just a few years ago and feared that his life would never be the same.
Akiko says: ‘I think when you learn that you have Alzheimer's, it is easy to start feeling scared, lonely, sad and lost. I saw that in him. He tried to hide it, but I could see it. He was still Jiji, a loving man. But he gradually began to make a wall between himself and other people.’
Luckily, Jiji would soon experience a twist of fate. He was about to meet his soulmate: a sweet little cat called Kinako.
According to Akiko, Jiji had always been fond of animals – the only exception being cats. He didn’t like how the neighbourhood strays would roam into his yard, using his garden as a little box. So, when Akiko decided to rescue the young Kinako, she was beyond apprehensive to bring the kitten into the family home.
‘I actually didn't get any permission and first hid him in my room,’ she says. ‘Then grandpa wandered in and saw 4-month-old Kinako — and his eyes shined full of happiness. It was something I hadn't seen in a while.’
Akiko, a keen photographer, soon started to document the relationship between her grandfather and his new-found feline companion. It quickly became apparent that the two had become the best of friends, seldom leaving each other’s sides. Akiko adores watching her grandpa and kitten interact, and often feels moved by the images that she captures on camera. ‘They get together, share their important moments, like they are making sure they are having a good day. They nap together a lot, and they often sleep in a similar pose. I don't know how this happens but it's true.’
We think that the relationship between Jiji and Kinako is just gorgeous, and it’s beautiful to see how much this companionship means to them both. Take a look at some of Akiko’s photographs below, and just try not to cry!
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