I know Mother's Day was last Sunday, but I thought this would still give me the chance to showcase some of the best mums of the animal world. After all, some of them literally get to death's door just to give their offspring the best chance of survival!
Starting off my best animal mum countdown is the Elephant.
Unbelievably she holds the records for the longest pregnancy as she carries her calf for an amazing 22 months. Now I don't know about you, but I thought nine months was long enough. Once born, the calf weighs an amazing 17 stone which is huge to you and me, but I suppose in comparison to a four ton elephant this can't be too bad.
Baby elephants are initially born blind at birth which is incredible when you think they are already in danger from predators. As they have few survival instincts at this age, the mother must do all she can to protect her calf and she enlists her support system of other females to help her. In its first year a calf can put on just over two stone a week and will consume up to 10 litres of milk every day. Due to her dedication to her calf, elephants only tend to have a new baby every two to four years and to have twins is incredibly rare, if not impossible in most cases.
My next top mum the Octopus takes us to the ocean.
Now you may think this is a rather obscure animal, but believe me the Octopus is definitely worth a mention in my list.
She can lay anything between 50,000-200,000 eggs (depending on species) and unfortunately for the male he dies soon after mating. Sorry Dad! She will take the time to place all her eggs in a special grouping and then spends the next month or two caring for her babies by protecting them from predators and pushing water currents in their direction to give them more oxygen.
What makes this story even more heartbreaking is during this time she won't eat and will often end up eating her own arms for substance. Eventually when her babies hatch she is usually too weak to defend herself and the majority, if not all, die soon after. Pass me the tissues!
Now we go to exotic Borneo and Sumatra where the Orangutans live.
Waiting eight years between births, Orangutans have the longest period between babies of any ape. When infants are born, they are utterly dependent on their mums for the first two years of their life and don’t even break physical contact for the first four months of their life. Now that’s commitment!
Every night she’ll make a nest for her and her baby to cuddle up in together and even when they mature they’ll stick together until the infant is at least five years. Girls tend to stay longer than boys so they learn the skills to raise their own children, but this still makes them the species with the longest dependence period in the animal world.
Last on my top animal mum list is the Polar Bear.
When she becomes pregnant the polar bear will eat enough to double her own body weight as she fasts whilst she has her babies in order to provide for them. Although many people eat for two when they become pregnant somehow I don’t think they’ll go that far, especially as she can weigh up to 78 stone to start with!
In the Autumn she digs out a maternity den and once in will seal herself in and enters a hibernation-like state. The polar bear has one of the easiest births as she often sleeps through this and wakes up to her cubs by her. They’re born blind and weigh less than two pounds, but once they’ve nursed they will weigh up to 30 pounds when they leave the den in the Spring.
During this whole time in the den, their mother won’t eat and so won’t have eaten for up to eight months! The cubs stay with her for two and a half years and during this time she’ll teach them how to hunt as well as protect them.
What a dedicated group of mums!