APP : An Interview with April the Giraffe’s Caretaker

By now you have probably heard about April the Giraffe. And if you have not been live-streaming her pregnancy process, chances are that you know someone who is addicted to watching.

Millions are tuning in to the arrival of April’s calf and this anticipation has been turned into a global phenomenon with coverage by NY Times, USA Today, and even the BBC. We can’t wait to see the new giraffe be born!

Animal Adventure is the name of the park that April calls home. It has only been open for 4 years, but is a treasure in the small town of Harpursville, NY. I know this because I have personally visited a handful of times with family, having grown up in the next town over. It is also where many other mammals, birds, and cold-blooded animals reside.

The first time I visited Animal Adventure was before April came to the park. Animal Adventure only had one young giraffe at that time, Oliver. My son was only 1, but he would excitedly tell anyone that his favorite animal was a giraffe, so we couldn’t wait to visit!
I was blown away to see how interactive this park was. Not only were we able to feed most of the animals or touch them as they came to the fences, but it was designed in a unique way.

Whether you were big or small, everyone had a great view and ability to interact with animals. We have visited zoos with my little man where we spend most of the time needing to pick him up to see, then compete with other visitors since only a small window could be used for viewing. Not at Animal Adventure. The design allows anyone and everyone to get involved.

adventure land

The next Summer we visited my family in NY, we looked forward to visiting the park again, only this time to meet the newly acquired giraffe, April. At the time, this was done with the hope to encourage breeding between Oliver and April. And we all know how that story is going…

Giraffes are pregnant for 15 months. Her baby will be about 6 feet tall weighing 150 pounds at birth.


I was given the opportunity to ask Jordan Patch, the owner and caretaker at Animal Adventure some questions after our last visit. This is my interview along with some photos from our visits:


Sincerely Anchored (SA): My 2 year old’s favorite animal is a giraffe, so he loved visiting Oliver and April. I was told that you were able to rescue Oliver and took in April when another zoo couldn’t care for her and are hoping that they will produce some baby giraffes. Can you tell me more about them and what it takes to care for them and those efforts?
Jordan Patch (JP): Oliver came from a facility that needed to place a young male that was approaching maturity. I wouldn’t say he was “rescued” in the sense of poor conditions; but instead given a welcome mat to become the star of a new facility.April came from a very nice place in NY that was rekindling their genetics. April was available and was the perfect fit to show Oliver the ropes of how to grow up as a giraffe.
April is expecting a calf in Jan/Feb. [Of course, now we know it’s March.] Their care could be a story in itself. We shadowed other facilities for 1 year prior to constructing our barn and exhibit. We learned the ins and outs before the animals joined us. Our zoologist oversees their care and exhibit as a priority on her species care list.
Giraffes are relatively easy keepers, but if and when an issue may arise, it’s a very tall, heavy, potentially dangerous animal you are working with.
SA:Would you consider Animal Adventure a Zoo? A Sanctuary?
JP: We are an interactive, educational animal park. We do not call ourselves a zoo because we are much more than that. Rarely are guests able to engage animals on the level we provide here at Animal Adventure. Many of our animals are rescues; but not all.

SA: One thing that was evident to me during our recent visit was your passion for this park and the animals, was there a specific event or reason why you you wanted to open Animal Adventure?
JP: I wanted to create what was not around when I grew up in this area. I coupled that concept with what would excite me now, at 33, as an animal lover.  This combination has been the recipe for the success we are seeing only 4 seasons into the park.
SA: As a child, did your parents encourage a love for animals? 
JP: The love for animals was there naturally. That continued passion is the driving force behind us always improving the park, the exhibits, and care for our animals.  My parents never discouraged any of my animal antics; instead embracing it. What mother allows their son to fill an entire basement with 100s of reptiles…. My mom!
SA: How did your family react to your wanting to open Animal Adventure?
JP: After 2 previous business endeavors; having lost the second to the floods that devastated our area; my friends and family embraced my vision – helping where they could.
I took many of them on a “tour” of the empty field I started with; spewing out what exhibit would go here or there and how guests would view the animals. I am sure many nod their heads in approval but not really “seeing” the vision.  No one ever said- you’re crazy to sink everything into this. I think by that point in my life; they knew that if I had the vision to just just and follow me through it. Sort of a; if you build it, they will come.
SA: Is Animal Adventure government-funded? How are you able to afford housing, feeding, medical care? I’m assuming it’s not just from guest admission.
JP: Animal Adventure receives zero funding from outside sources; which is a shame. We have done amazing things thus far, imagine if we had our county and state behind us providing assistance.
We bring in tens of thousands of tourists a season, and generate significant sales tax dollars for the area. We employ over 24 people; some moving to the area to accept the positions.  I believe these factors speak for themselves and should be recognized by now. Why the resistance? I encourage people to ask them!
Every dollar earned by the park goes back into it. Guest admissions, off site educational programming, and special events allow us to keep operating. Knowing this, is why you will see every member of our team truly appreciating each visitor. We live and die by the communities support; we have plenty of living to do!
SA:What is your biggest challenge in opening Animal Adventure and keeping it open? 
JP: Now in year four, the biggest hurdles were and continue to be budgeting and projections.  We do a lot with a small budget.
Finding the right team took some time. We have now established a stellar animal care team, and guest services team, dedicated to the park, the animals, and the mission we all share.
SA: How do you obtain your animals? Do they already have names or do you name them?
JP: Animals are donated, surrendered, and acquired from many different scenarios, situations, and organizations. Some have names which they keep; others we have the joy of naming.
SA:What is your favorite animal? Is there any one animal that you feel the closest bond with?
JP: Tough one.  My wife, Colleen, and I have bottle raised many of the animals in our home. So, naturally we are really emotionally involved with them. I can’t say one is my favorite; instead I encourage guests to stop my an ask questions about an animal. Instead of a short answer; you will likely get a complete background on the animal, it’s care, and those fun unknown facts/stories you would never know unless you asked!


SA: If you have children, do they have a favorite animal? Do they, or any of your family, help out at Animal Adventure too?
JP: My daughter is just now [at the time of the interview] 5 months old! She will learn to love them all. My wife runs our critter camp programs and fills in at the park when she can during her Summer’s off from teaching first grade. My mother works with us in the guest services building throughout the season. Known to many as Ms Vicki! My father helps with anything he can when it comes to behind the scenes construction, maintenance, and repairs. Heck, in the beginning, it was just him and I, dead of winter (negative 20 degrees) caring for the animals.
SA: How do you regulate an animal’s  food intake when park visitors are feeding them all day too?
JP: The pellet guests feed is not a grain; instead a hay stretcher. This slows their actual grass hay consumption during the season, but does not cause weight issues.  They beauty of the interactions/feedings is that they aren’t force. We can’t make them eat.  When they do it, it’s because they want to.
SA: How many staff or volunteers do you have? 
JP: Our staff is over 20 at this time. We have many adults, teachers, college students, and some high school students. We also boast a zoologist and a 12 year veteran of the Bronx zoo on the animal care team. Our animal care team; if students, are all in the field of zoology or pre-vet.
SA:What are your plans to expand? Do you plan on taking in more animals?
JP: We have major plans! You will see the Wilds of Asia added in the next year or so. Also plans for a South American building will be erected this season. What’s does that mean? Be ready for binturongs, more monkeys, sloths, anteaters, Asian otters, and tigers. In the future; there are plans for an African Conservation Outpost that will house white rhinos and African lions.
SA:What would you say is your favorite part about Animal Adventure?
JP: Watching a dream become a reality. Seeing the excitement of our guests each day is proof that we are in the right direction.
SA:What is something you wish all guests knew about Animal Adventure?
JP: Your support is all we have! Staff counts on it, the animals count on it, my family counts on it! We need our guests to continue and help spread the word; which allows the continued growth and improvement of the park.

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