The animal kingdom can be a harsh place for newborns, indeed, mother bears, felines, canids, primates, and many species of rodents—from rats to prairie dogs—have all been seen killing and eating their young.
But for some species, mothers will go above and beyond to protect their young. Below is a list of some of the animal kingdom's most nurturing and dedicated mothers.
Elephant mothers have it rough. Not only do they give birth to the largest animal baby on earth but they carry their babies for an enormous 22 months. Calves are born blind and so rely on their trunk and their mothers for guidance. Luckily for the newborn, female herd members all chip in to help babysit. These full-time babysitters are called “Allomothers.”
Image: Paul Fahy
Meerkats live together in large groups of around 20 or more. One dominating couple produces new pups and the whole clan of meerkats care and raise the pups.
Eucalyptus, a koala’s main source of food is highly poisonous. An adult koala’s bowels are lined with a unique bacteria that assist digestion of the deadly leaves. A joey's stomach isn't as refined, so a mother koala will chew her own faeces and feed it to her joeys.
To avoid sitting on their eggs, alligators will build a nest of rotting vegetation that produces enough heat to warm the eggs. Once hatched they will carry their babies around in their jaws for protection until large enough to teach them how to hunt and defend themselves.
5. Polar bears
Mother polar bears raise their cubs alone. The father will mate and then leave the mother to fend for herself. The mother will then dig a den and hibernate through winter’s coldest months. When she gives birth, she will let the cubs nurse till they are strong enough to venture outside the den, where the mother will feed for the first time in eight months!
Cheetahs can have four to six cubs at any time. Unfortunately for the mother, these cubs are born without any survival instincts. The mother cheetah will spend up to two years teaching her cubs how to hunt and avoid predators before giving birth to the next litter.
Image: National Zoo
Female orangutans only have babies every eight years or so. The mother will nurse her young for 6-7 years with the mother and baby attached without contact broken for the first four months after birth.
8. Wolf Spiders
Unlike most spiders who will hang their eggs in their web, a female wolf spider will carry her eggs on her back and continue to carry the baby spiders even after they’ve hatched.
A female octopus will lay over 50, 000 eggs at a time. The hatching process takes around 40 days, during that time the mother octopus will stay close, protecting her eggs from predators and monitoring their oxygen. The mother will starve herself, rather than leave her eggs, even going as far as ingesting one of her own limbs.
10. Sea Louse
This rather ugly looking creature will make the ultimate sacrifice for her young. The sea louse babies will tunnel out of the mother, eating her from the inside out.