| STORY BY MEGHAN MCMAHON |
When it comes to parenting decisions, it seems as though everyone is a critic. From the earliest days of motherhood, many moms feel constant scrutiny of their choices, whether it’s deciding not to breastfeed or to go back to work soon after the baby is born.
In the animal kingdom, mothers don’t face nearly the same pressure as their human counterparts. They parent by instinct, providing the care their babies need until they are able to survive on their own. And just like it does for humans, parenting takes many forms in the wild.
Snakes, for example, are the absentee parents of the animal kingdom. Most-egg laying snakes provide no parental care; they simply lay their eggs and move on, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Orangutan mothers are the polar opposite of snakes. In fact, their mothering style would have them labeled as helicopter moms in the human world. Mother orangutans carry their babies around exclusively for at least the first two years of their life and sometimes for as long as five years, according to Orangutan Federation International. Even once the young orangutans are too big to carry, they stick by their mothers’ sides until they are about 10. They are even breastfed until about the age of 8.
Elephants are also caring mothers and would probably win all the mother of the year awards in the animal kingdom. These massive mammals have the longest gestation period of any animal on Earth — 22 months! — and their calves are born weighing about 250 pounds, PBS reports.
But beyond these feats of pregnancy and childbirth, elephant mothers stay with their offspring for years after birth. Adopting the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child, young elephants are cared for in large family groups consisting of female elephants and their offspring. The males remain with the herd for about 14 years, and the females will remain with their mothers and the rest of the herd their entire lives.
Closer to home there are plenty examples of good mothers, too. Here’s a look at a few hands-on animal moms we see in our own communities.