Since it was posted Thursday, it has generated more than 53,000 reactions on Facebook and has been shared more than 9,000 times, as of Monday morning. However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA and a vocal critic of animal mistreatment, responded negatively to the news.
In a statement, Brittany Peett, PETA Foundation director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, accused the park of having “wrung every dollar and video hit that it could out of this giraffe’s pregnancy,” and called on the park to “prioritize animal welfare over fleeting online fame and end its shameful giraffe-breeding program.”
When reached, park owner Jordan Patch was quick to dispute the accusations and emphasized the “tangible change” that the live stream, with its accompanying educational platform, has made in the world of giraffe conservation.
“Preservation and conservation are a top priority for the park, which has been evident through the entire journey with our giraffes,” park owner Jordan Patch said in a statement. “We have been able to educate the world. What was dubbed the silent extinction in 2016 is no longer silent in 2017.”
In December, scientists added giraffes to the list of threatened and endangered animals, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), listing them as “vulnerable to extinction.”
“We didn’t ask for viewership, we didn’t promote the giraffe cam, and we certainly didn’t plan on a worldwide phenomenon. However, we received it,” Patch said. “We used the platform and audience to educate on giraffe conservation, dwindling populations and habitat destruction. We’ve been able to couple that message with the donation of tens of thousands of dollars to support the conservation efforts in Africa. We’ve made a difference, tangible change, with our efforts.”
The calf was born Saturday morning after nearly 16 months of pregnancy. USA TODAY
Money raised through a naming contest for the park’s giraffe calf, born April 15, was donated in part to giraffe conservation, in addition to funding the park’s annual Ava’s Little Heroes fundraiser, which supports local families with a child fighting a health battle.
“At the end of the day, we all want what is best for animals,” Patch said. “While PETA fights the small battles, attacking efforts like ours, Animal Adventure and other facilities are taking on the war that is giraffe conservation.”