The 6 Best Mothers In The Animal Kingdom

Jun 6, 2016 by Sarah (Day Styles)

As humans, we are extremely lucky to have some of the most dedicated mothers in the world. Our mothers are willing to take care of screaming children for years until they are able (and sometimes until they are willing) to take care of themselves. Still, there are some other animals that take care of their children in a similar fashion, and they deserve some recognition for how they protect and cherish their young! While we have all the advantages of modern life, animals have to take care of their babies the old fashioned way! Here are six of the most dedicated mothers in the animal kingdom.

Elephants

Female elephants are pregnant for almost two years, and when they do give birth, the newborn elephant weighs a whopping 250 pounds! Of course, that’s not all. Baby elephants are born blind and depend completely on their mother and the rest of their herd. Thankfully, just like humans, the new mother has a ton of support from her family. The herd provides protection and free full-time babysitters! But the new mother still works hard. She has to eat as much food as possible so she can provide her young one with as much milk as possible. Still, we think elephants deserve an award just for carrying their baby to term for two years!

Alligators

When you think of an alligator, you don’t necessarily think of them as the most caring animals, but when it comes to a mother and her babies, alligators are second to none. After laying her eggs, the female alligator constructs a nest of organic matter and guards the nest against any and all threats, including other alligators, who like to eat the eggs. Once her offspring hatch, she gently puts the babies in her mouth and takes them to water, getting the young used to their new environment.  The mother continues caring for the offspring for the whole following year if they stay in her area of the marsh, even carrying them around on her back. Some alligators leave her protection earlier, but it’s risky. The tiny alligators need their mother’s protection from nearby cannibals of their species!

Orangutans

The highly intelligent orangutans wait for eight years between giving birth so that they can devote all of their time to raising each baby. The great apes are naturally solitary, and their closest bonds are with their mothers! That might be because infant orangutans are completely dependent on their mothers for the first two years of their lives. During the first four months of life, the baby orangutans never lose physical contact with their mothers, clinging to their orange fur for safety and security. The mother builds herself and her infant a nest every night in which they cuddle until the infant is about one year of age. Infant orangutans breastfeed until they are about five years old, and female babies stay with their mother longer than males so that the mother can teach it how to raise a baby herself, and the cycle of life continues.

Great Hornbills

The Great Hornbill creates a tiny fortress for herself and her chicks inside a hollow tree. Before laying her eggs, the giant bird finds a tree high above the forest canopy and creates a nest inside, sealing the opening with plaster. She lays her eggs and waits in near darkness for 40 days - now that’s dedication. Her partner feeds her through a narrow slit in the plaster and the mother only survives on what her mate brings her. Then, once the eggs hatch, the mother takes care of the chicks for two weeks. After they’re ready, she leaves the nest and the infants seal the opening behind her. The two birds continue to split the duties of feeding and watching the nest until the babies are old enough to fend for themselves. And you thought being stuck at home with the kids was bad.

Octopi

It’s extremely easy for a female octopus to have a baby, as they lay between 50,000 to 200,000 eggs at once (depending on the type of octopus). Once the octopus lays her eggs, the expectant mother spends one to two months caring for the eggs and fighting off predators. She also blows water around her eggs so that they are provided with enough oxygen. The mother refuses to hunt while she’s caring for her children (she doesn’t want to leave them alone) so sometimes the female octopus ends up eating her body for sustenance. Once the babies are born, she doesn’t tend to live much longer. That’s a level of dedication we’re glad that humans don’t need!

Polar Bears

When a female polar bear gets pregnant, she eats enough to double her weight because they actually go into a state similar to hibernation during the pregnancy. When temperatures start dropping, the mother digs a maternity den, which has a narrow entrance and a few chambers at the bottom. While the polar bear doesn’t leave the den, similar to hibernation, the expecting mother remains awake and alert during the cold months - keeping her baby safe and warm. Strangely, however, sometimes the female polar bear doesn’t even know she’s given birth as the baby is quite small, less than two pounds! Still the bear keeps her blind cub safe and sound as it nurses. When the cub is around 30 pounds, they can leave the den and over the next few years the mother bear teaches the cub how to hunt and survive in the wild while protecting them from predators and rival bears. The cubs might be cute, but don’t get close, as mother bears are very protective!

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