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Best Moms in the Animal Kingdom


It’s a jungle out there and these furry mothers will do just about anything to protect their young.

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Moms are the best, but not just the human sort. The animal kingdom is full of mothers who are ready to – quite literally – go out on a limb for their children. Between teaching their young to forage food, defend themselves against predators, and battle the elements, animal moms have a big job. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we rounded up some of the fiercest mamas in the animal kingdom.

Orangutan –

Orangutans share 97% of the same DNA as humans, so we’d hope that they’d be pretty good parents. As it turns out, orangutans are one of the best mothers and stay with their children longer than any other animal. Many orangutan females will stay with their mothers into their teens in order to observe them rearing their younger siblings. Now that’s what I call prepared! (


Empire Penguin –

When it comes to motherhood, female Empire Penguins go the extra mile(s). After laying her egg, the mother penguin hands it off to the father then takes to the ocean, which is roughly 50 miles away. For about four months, the mother penguin will hunt for food to bring back to her baby. Female penguins only lay a single egg, so they become very attached to their young, often seen mourning the loss of a baby. (

Polar Bear –

Male Polar Bear should take a note from the Empire Penguin when it comes to parenting. Mother polar bears birth their cubs (who are usually twins) in the middle of winter and must keep them warm and well fed during those bleak months. For around two years, the cubs will stay with their mothers and depend on her prey for food. Females aggressively protect their young with no help from the father. In fact, male polar bears have been known to kill cubs of their species. (

Polar Bear

Elephant –

Human mothers aren’t allowed to complain about breastfeeding any more. Elephant females allow their calf to suckle until their tusks begin to irritate the mother. While this may sound reasonable, we should note that elephant calves start growing their tusks at 16 months and usually don’t stop until the age of four or five! Elephants have such a strong maternal instinct that a lactating female will often adopt an orphaned calf. (


Cheetah –

If any animal could understand the struggles of being a single mother, it would be the cheetah. Male and female cheetahs only mix to mate. That means that the female is left to raise two to eight cubs on her own, including leaving them to hunt for food. Mom will even bring home prey for the cubs to chase so they can practice their hunting skills. For 23 months, cheetah cubs depend on Mom for just about everything until their ready to start their own families. (

Octopus –

Octopus mothers are perhaps the most selfless of all. Females protect their eggs from predators by sitting on top of them during their entire brooding period, which can range from 14 to 53 months. During this time, the mother does not eat, but remains on the ocean floor giving her life to her babies. Once the eggs hatch, the mother dies from exhaustion and starvation, performing the ultimate sacrifice for her young. (


Alligator –

Alligator moms sure have their mouths full when it comes to childcare. Yes, we meant mouths. Female alligators lay anywhere from 30 to 50 eggs and stand guard while they incubate. After they’ve hatched, the mom carefully carries each alligator to the water. Since she can only fit a few hatchlings in her mouth at a time, this proves to be quite the process. (


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