These Animal Moms Deserve a Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is upon us. And while we celebrate our human moms, let’s also give some credit to the other mothers on this planet who go to some extreme lengths to nurture and protect their babies. Here are five species whose impressive moms deserve a happy Mother’s Day.

1. Orangutans

Orangutan mothers and their young have incredible bonds. “For the first two years of a young orangutan’s life, he or she is completely dependent on mother for food and transportation,” according to Orangutan Foundation International. Some mothers will carry their babies until they’re about 5 years old and breastfeed them until they’re 8 — not exactly babies anymore.

Offspring usually stay with their mothers and learn important life skills until they’re roughly 10 years old. And many — especially female young — will visit their moms until they’re about 15 or 16. “Such prolonged association between mother and offspring is rare among mammals,” Orangutan Foundation International says. “Probably only humans have a more intensive relationship with their mothers.”

Experts believe orangutans have so-called “childhoods” because there’s so much they need to learn to successfully navigate their environments — how to find food, how to build a sleeping nest, etc. And while they play the roles of teacher and nurturer, mother orangutans also must be fierce protectors for their children against predators, including leopards, tigers and pythons. These moms definitely deserve breakfast in bed (nest?) on Mother’s Day.

2. Cheetahs

cheetah mom and two cubsCredit: GP232/Getty Images

Cheetahs are most widely known as the fastest land animal, but cheetah moms also deserve some recognition for their dedicated parenting. Cheetahs are pregnant for a little more than three months and usually have litters of about three to five cubs, according to the Dell Cheetah Centre. Fathers do not stay to help raise the cubs.

This means a cheetah mother must juggle protecting her babies, nursing them and hunting for food all by herself. She also has to be constantly on the move. “Due to the dangers posed by other predators the female will move the cubs to a new den every few days, and for the first six weeks she will leave them alone most of the time, allowing her to go off and hunt,” the Dell Cheetah Centre says.

Unfortunately, this often means she’ll have to travel long distances to find prey, and many cubs don’t end up making it. Still, the cubs who survive will stay under their mother’s care for almost two years as she teaches them how to hunt and other life skills.

3. Emperor penguins

mom and baby penguinCredit: KeithSzafranski/Getty Images

Both emperor penguin parents have a role in taking care of their offspring. Male penguins protect their eggs “by balancing them on their feet and covering them with feathered skin known as a brood pouch,” according to National Geographic. They must do this for roughly two months, passing the time without food and at the mercy of the elements.

Sure, that might sound harsh for the dads. But the female penguins must go on an arguably more arduous journey. They walk up to 50 miles through the harsh elements to reach the ocean, where they can hunt for food. But the food isn’t all for them. They return to the breeding site (after another long walk) and regurgitate food for their newly hatched chicks. Then, the mothers take the chicks in their own brood pouches and care for them while the males go off to eat.

4. Octopuses

blue ring octopus carrying eggsCredit: RibeirodosSantos/Getty Images

Octopuses have many interesting qualities. They’re highly intelligent. They have three hearts and blue blood. They can match their surroundings and release a cloud of ink to hide from predators. And fossils of them date back hundreds of millions of years.

The reproductive life of a mother octopus is just as unusual. “Multiple males either insert their spermatophores directly into a tubular funnel that the female uses to breathe, or else literally hand her the sperm, which she always accepts with one of her right arms (researchers do not know why),” according to Smithsonian Magazine. “Afterwards, males wander off to die.” But don’t feel too sorry for the dads, as they actually get the better deal.

The mothers stay and watch over their tens of thousands of eggs for months — neither eating nor leaving their side, according to NPR. They waft currents of water over the eggs to keep them oxygenated, and they drive away predators as their own bodies deteriorate from a lack of food. Finally, once the babies hatch, the mothers use their siphons to blow them out to sea (where few will survive due to predators, environmental hazards, etc). And with their work done and bodies depleted, the mothers die. One octopus mom was recorded wasting away like this for more than four years — all for her children.

5. Elephants

elephant mom and calfCredit: USO/Getty Images

Elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals at roughly 22 months, according to the Global Sanctuary for Elephants. So they already deserve some applause for being super moms right there. Elephants usually only give birth to one calf at a time — rarely twins — and will have about four children over the course of their lives. And these are some big babies, weighing about 200 to 250 pounds at birth. Interestingly, their trunks have hardly any muscle tone and coordination at birth, so they must suckle through their mouths.

Elephants live in matriarchal groups of related females. Males leave the herds at about 13 years old for solitary lives, sometimes forming loose-knit bachelor groups. “The mother and all of the other females in the herd, including aunts, grandmothers, and sisters, will raise the baby,” the Global Sanctuary for Elephants says. And that’s a lot of love for these babies.

In addition to their high intelligence, elephants also are incredibly sensitive and nurturing animals. “If a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it,” according to the sanctuary. So in this case, the moms — as well as all the other strong ladies who help raise a baby — deserve a happy Mother’s Day.

Main image credit: Freder/Getty Images

70 comments

Leo C
Leo Cyesterday

Thank you for sharing!

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Carla G
Carla Gyesterday

thank you

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Richard B
Richard B1 days ago

thanks for posting

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Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace3 days ago

Wonderful mothers.

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Leo C
Leo C5 days ago

Thank you for posting!

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Leo C
Leo C6 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Leo C
Leo C6 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Danuta W
Danuta W7 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Leo Custer
Leo C8 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric8 days ago

Hugs and love to all of them...

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