NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - She is probably the only Internet sensation in Harpursville, New York, a hamlet of about 3,500 people in the Southern Tier region: April, a very pregnant giraffe, whose livestream video has attracted millions of viewers.
But April's instant stardom - the stream, which was posted about three weeks ago by Animal Adventure Park, where she lives, has been viewed nearly 20 million times on YouTube - is raising hopes that the attention will yield an economic boost for the region, a former manufacturing powerhouse that has struggled in recent years.
The audience that has tuned in online to watch and wait for April to give birth has translated into phone calls, e-mails and a surge of interest in the 3 1/2-year-old animal park, now closed for the winter, said its owner, Jordan Patch.
Patch said he had received dozens of inquiries about which airport was closest to the park (Greater Binghamton Airport), the nearest hotels (also in Binghamton, about 20 minutes away), and where visitors could camp (Chenango Valley State Park).
"It's phenomenal," Patch said, adding that the Southern Tier, a line of counties north of Pennsylvania, had long sought recognition as a great part of New York to visit.
Patch said the idea for the livestream arose from the many e-mails and calls he was receiving from local residents asking for updates on the pregnancy of April, a 15-year-old reticulated giraffe.
The livestream allowed her fans to monitor her progress on their own, theoretically freeing Patch to attend to other matters. It did not work out that way.
"I'm answering a lot more e-mails now than I was before," he said. "It's absolutely overwhelming. We are inundated with messages and e-mails, media interviews and requests."
Interest has poured in from Canada, India, Ireland and Scotland. The BBC called the calf's arrival the most anticipated birth since Prince George was born in 2013.
"In fact, the media spotlight is arguably greater," the BBC noted. The livestream was removed from YouTube briefly in February after complaints that it was showcasing nudity and sexually explicit content, Patch said.
Patch believes the complaints came from people who do not believe in keeping animals in captivity.
A spokeswoman for YouTube declined to comment on why the video was taken down but said it was back up in an hour.
The animal park - about 20 acres with more than 200 animals, including spotted hyenas, black bears, zebras, wildebeest and a collection of monkeys and primates - has embraced the attention.
A GoFundMe page has been set up and April merchandise is being sold to raise money, and there are plans to hold a naming contest once the calf is born.
"We still scoop poop, feed animals and we have a living collection that depends on us that we have to maintain," Patch said. "On the park side it's business as usual."
The park acquired April, a mother of three, in September 2015, in hopes that she would bear her fourth child with the help of a 5-year-old male giraffe, Oliver.
Within a month the two were mating, Patch said. Forecasting a gestation period of about 15 months, Patch's staff predicted that April would give birth in January or February of this year. But they may have calculated the date of conception incorrectly.
"Like every other animal in the world, just because you connected doesn't mean you conceived," Patch said.
The livestream of April is now being viewed nearly 5 million times a day. And although some viewers have complained about the long wait, the delay has allowed interest to build, encouraging local officials. "
You pray for something like this to happen when you're a community of our size," said Jennifer Conway, president and chief executive of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, which manages tourism for Broome County.