This week, or for what's left of it, I'm going to write about the Good Mother, since we'll be celebrating Mother's Day this coming Sunday, May 11th. You know, when we see someone acting horribly or out-of-control, we say they're "behaving like an animal." That is patently unfair to animals. They are not all creatures of mere instinct and habit. Animals can form complex social structures and develop deep attachments to each other and humans.
Elephants are such animals. Their bonds are lifelong and even last past death. After a gestation period of 22 months (yes, 22 months), the soon-to-be-mother will choose an "Auntie" from the predominantly female herd and retire to a secluded area to give birth. The Auntie is there to help the mother and protect her and the calf during labor and the birthing process.
Elephant mothers dote on their young, investing 4 or more years in suckling alone. They take great care in guiding and teaching their children, even meting out discipline in the form of a trunk slap on the flank or rump. Mothers are aided in their child-rearing by the entire herd, which is made up of sisters, nieces, cousins, mothers and grandmothers. Daughters will stay with their mothers and the herd they are born into for the rest of their lives. Sons will remain with their mother until they are approximately 15 years old, when they will join smaller male groups.
Photo taken by Sandra Fenley