While we all celebrate our human moms today, 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. Via: Care2
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.
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.
We begin with a pregnant octopus. She's been that way for four or five months, carrying the eggs inside her body until one day, in mid winter, when the water temperature is right, she starts expelling her eggs, one by one, into the water. She will produce (and this will take her a month or so) about 56,000 individuals, who float free until she gathers them into groups, then stitches them into hanging braids, like a bead curtain in a Chinese restaurant. This is her octopus "den." It's usually an underwater cave, protected by rocks that she's put at the entrance to keep hungry crabs, sea stars and fish from getting too close. She's glued about 170 braids to the roof and there she sits, often right under the babies. Each egg is a gleaming white tear-drop about the size of a grain of rice." Months pass. All this time, the mother is constantly on guard. The mother actually spends five, six months protecting her 56,000 children.
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.
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.