Imagine if, purely by accident, you stumbled upon a way to have at least 50,000 people gaze lovingly at your business at any given time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know if I drew that much attention to my blog, even once, I’d think I had died and gone to heaven. That’s the kind of PR gold that most fortune 500 companies would pay millions, as in Superbowl advertising money, to obtain.
But somehow, the Animal Adventure Park, a petting zoo in Harpursville, New York, halfway between Syracuse and Scranton, managed to achieve this miracle without even really trying. All they did was put up a live camera in the stall of April, their pregnant giraffe. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They thought a few locals might be interested, and some regular visitors to the park might want to take a peek as well. They never expected the world would be beating a path to their door.
As April’s anticipated due date came and went with no baby appearing, all eyes began to anxiously await the new arrival. They got to know the vet, the owner, and the handlers by name. They created Facebook groups. Plush toys and posters began flying out of their gift shop. They created a text alert system, where paid subscribers could obtain updates and exclusive photos.
When the calf was finally born on April 15th, 1.2 million people were watching the live feed. I was one of them, and I have to admit I had an ugly, joyful cry. They are now having a contest where you can pay to vote for a name for the new baby boy. So far, so good.
But publicity has its downsides. Fielding all those interviews and e-mails has made it nearly impossible for the park to focus on business as usual. At one point, April was limping, and their servers crashed from all the e-mails they received from concerned viewers. People even called 911. And everybody’s a critic. Are they being fed enough? Too much? Why don’t they go outside more often?
So, on the day of this writing, the Animal Adventure Park decided to pull the live camera, just as they had planned to do all along, prior to all this kerfuffle. They thought 5 days of seeing the baby was plenty. Thanks for watching. Now please go away.
I cried when that camera went down. April has been streaming on my laptop at least 8 hours a day for weeks now. As I wrote this blog, I had her off to the side, keeping me company. She has become part of my life. And I’m in love with that baby boy. I know I’m not alone. Schools have used April to teach about Giraffe conservation. Senior centers have noticed that their Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble remembering other things, but they are anxious to check on April every day. We have become a family.
The park staff say that you’ll be able to see them occasionally on yard cameras, and they’ll have sporadic updates and photos, and maybe turn the camera on every once in a while, but it won’t be the same. And what they’re doing makes no sense at all.
I hate to say this, but April is a cash cow. And all this attention could be parlayed into a unique opportunity to educate people about giraffes and their endangerment. It would be a great avenue for fundraising for the park. That little zoo in that little town could become Giraffe central. They could be the go-to people for giraffe information. Yes, it creates more work. So hire a Public Relations person. The live cam would raise funds for that easily.
Throwing away a chance like this seems foolish. It’s such a waste. I will never understand this thought process.
April, I’ll miss you. Having you snatched away from all of us is no way to celebrate Earth Day.