Why do we care about April the giraffe?

Think of your obsession with Giraffe Cam like playing slots

SAN ANTONIO – At any given time, more than 100,000 people can be found watching Animal Adventure Park's Giraffe Cam. 

And that's just on YouTube. That doesn't include the news organizations with access to share it via Facebook Live. 

April the giraffe has been pregnant since 2015 and reportedly in labor since February, which raises the question -- just how long does it take for a giraffe to have a baby? Ellie Koons, an animal specialist at the San Antonio Zoo, says giraffe mamas have to hang in there a while. 

"Giraffes are at about 15 months, so pretty long," she said. 

Koons believes the fascination with giraffes has a lot to do with how gorgeous they are. 

"Giraffes are just very unique animal," she said. "They have those big, long necks, they have what looks like horns on top of their heads. They are called osicones."

You can't forget their long tongue. As herbivores, they use it to reach food up high, even if it's in something thorny.

As of December 2016, giraffes are now considered to be at a vulnerable status, which is just before endangered. Koons believes conservation and education efforts supported by zoos can help slow down their decline or even save them. She says just by patronizing the San Antonio Zoo, which is a nonprofit organization, guests are contributing to conservation efforts. Social media plays a big role, too, she says. 

When it comes to conservation, Koons says recycling and reducing water use are two of the easiest way to help protect the environment, which, by result, can save the giraffes. 

As for how viral Giraffe Cam has gone, the answer to that might have a little science behind it. Clinical Psychologist Julie Swearingen, Ph.D., relates it to the smile effect. 

"When you smile at someone, they almost always smile back, and it's something we almost can't help as humans," she said. "In the digital world, there's a similar effect -- when you have something positive, you get that reciprocated."

She also compares it to the psychology of slot machines. The longer it's gone on, we know the payout -- or in this case the baby is going to come. 

"The closer we get to it, the more we know the probability of it happening at any given moment increases," she said. "People are watching more frequently and they are staying on longer because they don't want to miss that big event they have been waiting for."

Swearingen also says political climate in our country plays a factor. Unlike everything else on Facebook, there's no division. 

"It's the birth of new life, it's hope, it's excitement and it's things that anybody can be excited about regardless of where they land on those controversial topics that have been in the forefront lately," she said.

If you'd like to get up close and personal with giraffes at the San Antonio Zoo, check out their giraffe feedings.


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