April the giraffe, has remained a media sensation for over three months since Animal Adventure Park put up a live feed of the pregnant giraffe. About 1.2 million people tuned in to watch her April 14th delivery on the park's live-feed.
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Giraffe-mania had swept the world. And fans had become invested in the entire cast of characters surrounding April's life: dad Oliver, owner Jordan Patch, Dr.Tim the veterinarian, baby Tajiri. But Swilley is the person who has drawn the most interest.
“I loved animals since I was a kid. I can't imagine my life without animals. When I was a kid I always said I wanted to work with animals, but I wanted to make a difference.”
Seen regularly but rarely heard, viewers witnessed Swilley feeding and caring for April, every step of the way — commenting on days when 24-year-old Swilley would clean out the pen and less, erm, glamorous tasks.
” I can tell you I've officially been kicked by my first giraffe. I was in the stall locking up, Taj got a little excited and I was kicked. I'm happy it was Taj, but I can promise you the baby giraffe kick is still pretty significant. I'm doing fine though.”– Allysa Swilley, Lead Zoologist, Animal Adventure Park
Before her dream of working with animals grew into a reality, Swilley attended SUNY Oswego, where she obtained a Bachelors degree in zoology in 2015.
|A young Allysa Swilley with her family at a petting zoo.|
Gaining real world experience, Allysa traveled to Florida and South Africa for internships. Months later, Swilley returned to New York where she was able to procure a zoologist job with a local animal park, in Harpursville.
Allysa's job as lead zoologist at Animal Adventure Park soon developed into a close relationship with the park's wildlife, creating her own 'special' family.'
“At the park I have a hand in just about everybody's care. Whether it's from giraffes to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, I kind of help wherever is necessary.”
Soon Allysa was introduced to April and her mate, Oliver, earning her the name 'giraffe girl.' After caring for both of them for two years, Swilley discovered that her family was about to grow.
“Tajiri has been a part of my life since the day we said April was pregnant. Adding another member to the family has just been so exciting.”
April fans could sense Swilley's love for this new baby giraffe and in May voted to let Allysa choose the name, during a naming contest.
Living alongside April during the live birth of Tajiri, people from across the globe journeyed to Animal Adventure Park to catch a glimpse of the famous giraffes and congratulate Allysa on a job well done.
“We've had lots of guests come in from all over; Germany, Netherlands, Texas and Canada. It's been phenomenal. We're making all kinds of memories here at the park.”
“People ask me, aren't you going to be devastated when Taj leaves?'…I'm going to be heartbroken when he leaves, but I understand why he has to go. It's just like my parents; when I moved out, went to college, got a job…it's the same concept. He's a giraffe, we're not losing him forever. He'll start his own family and I can still go see him.”
While Swilley says the memories of the animals in her life are more than enough for her to continue helping others, it doesn't hurt to capture a permanent reminder. (Well, maybe a little.)
Whatever the future holds for Swilley, she vows to remain a positive force among a growing team (as long as she can convince Animal Adventure Park Owner, Jordan Patch, to welcome one more new family member).
“I hope the future brings me a rhino. I keep putting that bug in Jordan's ear, “How about a rhino?' I'm still kind of working on it. Hopefully, it brings another species that's in serious trouble and our fans will rally behind as well. That's what we need to save the planet.”
Swilley, who has risen to a level of super-stardom in a highly competitive field, says she cannot imagine being anyplace else.