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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 100,000 people tuned-in on Thursday to watch April the giraffe give birth to her fourth calf at a New York zoo, with movement by the baby in her belly visible on a livestream video.
"The world waits on edge and April smirks with a mouthful of cud," officials at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville wrote on Facebook. "Watch closely for strong kicks from within!"
In the video streaming on YouTube, April, a 15-year-old reticulated giraffe, can be seen pacing inside her barn and raising her tail before her delivery. Her mate, Oliver, can be seen in a nearby pen. (link to video: here)
Classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in 2016, the world's tallest mammals are usually found in dry savanna zones south of Africa's Sahara desert.
Their main predators are humans, lions and crocodiles, experts say, and fewer than 100,000 are thought to exist in the wild.
Female giraffes are usually pregnant for 15 months, and April is about a month overdue, according to zoo officials. When it is born, her calf is expected to weigh around 150 pounds (68 kg) and be about 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall.
Zoo officials say they will only announce that April has gone into labor when calf hooves are visible. Giraffes naturally hide signs of labor so as not to alert predators.
The livestream was briefly suspended late last month after animal rights campaigners seeking to take it down reported the video for containing sexuality explicit content, zoo spokesman Jordan Patch said in a video on Facebook.
"Instead of sitting behind a keyboard or holding up protest signs, I encourage the animal rights activists to get behind conservation," Patch said.
The zoo will hold an online competition to name April's calf.
It would be the second baby giraffe to be delivered in the United States in recent days: a male named Dobby was unexpectedly born on Tuesday at a Denver Zoo in Colorado. His mother, Kipele, was on birth control, keepers said.
Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marguerita Choy