Nature's Best Mothers - Elephants To Orangutans, Take A Look At Natures Supermums!

Nature's Best Mothers - Elephants To Orangutans, Take A Look At Natures Supermums!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 26th Mar 2017

To celebrate Mother’s Day (26th March), we’d like to pay homage to some of the most spectacular mothers in all of the animal kingdom. Nature provides us with some unbelievable examples of compassion, nurturing and sacrifice, so join us as we take a look at some truly marvellous mommas!

Elephants

Elephant and calf

It has been said that the bond between a mother elephant and her calf is the strongest on earth…and it’s not difficult to understand why. These amazing mothers carry their young for an incredible 22 months, making an elephant’s gestation period the longest of any species of all. After such a very long pregnancy, the elephants then give birth to calves that normally weigh a whopping 200 pounds or more…somebody give these ladies a medal!

After the calf’s birth, the mother elephant then stays with their calf for around 16 years. Over this time, the mothers will teach their young all that there is to know about surviving life as an elephant – but they are not without the assistance of their fellow females. Elephants live in a matriarchal society, with the other females in the herd doing their bit to help raise the child, teaching the little ones how to eat the right kinds of plant, and how to find them. These ‘babysitters’ are known as ‘Allomothers’, but we just like to call them ‘super heroes.’

Orangutans

Orangutan and baby

Female orangutans only give birth every eight years or so, which means that the time they spend with their young is ample, as well as vital. Young orangutans learn everything that they need to know from their mothers, being extremely dependent on their parent throughout the first two years of their existence: the use of tools (for example to dislodge fruit from trees), foraging, making nests and getting to grips with key senses such as sight, touch and taste are all skills that the young orangutans would struggle to obtain without their close parental guidance. On top of all of this, contact between mother and child is never broken within the first 4 months of the infant’s life (the baby is carried around all day, and cuddled in a nest all night), and there have even been instances of the young orangutans being breastfed until around 5 years old. Finally, when orangutans do eventually leave their nest, they have been known to ‘visit’ their mothers on occasion, a trend that continues until around the age of 15 or 16 years old.

Polar Bears

Polar bear and cub

When it comes to sacrifice and dedication, polar bears are right there at the top of the pack. With temperatures in the arctic circle reaching as low as -34°C, these animals do all that they can to protect their young. Before giving birth, adult polar bears seek to gain around 400 pounds during their pregnancy, literally doubling their weight before creating a den in which to give birth. Here, they remain in a hibernation-like state throughout the coldest of the winter months, typically giving birth between November and February. Bear in mind, however, that the mother polar bears do not eat anything during this time period – instead, they fast as their newborn cubs feed on her milk. The mother’s fasting period lasts around eight months, during which her babies gain weight in abundance. The families leave the den around March time, and so begins the mother’s next task of teaching her young how to survive in the arctic wilderness.

Giant Pacific Octopus

Giant pacific octopus

Okay, while this one is a little sad, it still merits a place on our list as this animal will literally give its life for her offspring. We are, of course, talking about the octopus – and the sacrifices made by this sea creature are really something to behold.

Laying around 200,000 eggs in just one sitting, the female octopus will then guard her pod for what may end up being the rest of her life. She spends a whole month in front of the eggs, neglecting to eat if it means stepping away from the offspring. In fact, some female octopi have actually been observed eating their own tentacles to survive – this self-mutilation being preferable, it seems, to leaving their young behind. By the time the eggs are ready to hatch and float away, many female octopi will sadly die of starvation or too weak to battle off predators. A sad cycle of life, but the ultimate sacrifice from a mother to its young.

Emperor Penguins

Emperor penguin and babies

Finally, let’s hear it for the female emperor penguin. After laying an egg, the mother penguin leaves it with their partner, who’s duty it is to then protect the fragile shell from the harsh elements. The mother then heads off on a journey for up to 50 miles to reach the ocean, swallowing as much fish as she can muster before heading back to the hatching site. Here, she regurgitates the food to the newly-hatched babies, using the warmth of her own brood pouch to keep the little chick warm and safe from the harsh environment.

Which animal mother inspires you the most? Let us know!


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