Shenton Safaris

10 facts about the best and worst dads in wild Africa

The 18th June is Father’s Day, and we’d like to take this opportunity to show some appreciation for all the dads out there, the protectors, the disciplinarians, and the heroes who are working hard to provide for their children.

We’d also like to celebrate the wild dads of the animal kingdom, even the ones who don’t really play much of a role in the upbringing of their offspring – we’d still like to thank them for filling our world with cute wildlife babies, and furthering the existence of their species.

The top dads:

Mountain gorilla – the silverback grand-daddy

Male mountain gorillas, known as silverbacks when they a mature, lead cohesive families, defending females and offspring from threats by charging and beating their chests. Although male gorillas do not play an active role in caring for the infants, they do take on an important role in the offspring’s socialisation.

They also offer support during times of weaning and protection during intragroup aggression by intervening in aggressive behaviors involving older individuals.

Lion – the lazy, but overprotective, dad

The male lion is known to be a disinterested parent, lazy and removed from the upbringing and nurturing of the cubs. However, lion pride dynamics can make the king of the jungle quite the Casanova, with prides encompassing seven or more lionesses and plenty of cubs.

Unfortunately, four out of five cubs will usually not even make it to their first birthday. It is therefore important for the male lion to have as many cubs as he can; he only holds his position as head of the pride for a period of two to three years, so passing on his good looks and strong genes while he can is essential.

African jacana – the single, stay-at-home dad

The jacana dad is the most dedicated of the wild dads. There is nothing that this guy won’t do for the love of being a dad! After building his nest, he finds his mate and once the female has laid her eggs, she abandons the relationship, leaving the guy to raise the eggs alone whilst she cavorts with other suitors.

During which time, jacana dad remains on the nest, incubating and watching over the eggs to protect them. Once they hatch, he will raise the chicks alone. What a guy!

Wild dog – go Team Dad!

Just like the puppies of domesticated dogs, African wild dog pups are extremely active and expend quite a few calories throughout the day. Since the pups are unable to eat solid foods until they are about ten weeks old, their father will swallow their food and then regurgitate the softer version for the pups to eat, making sure they get enough nourishment. Some parents will stop at nothing to make sure their kids have a square meal!

This feeding practice serves another purpose too – since the pups have to rely on their fathers for food, it keeps them from wandering too far from home so they don’t fall prey to enemies.

Ostrich – daddy daycare

The ostrich is a very supportive dad. After a female lays her eggs, the parents take turns incubating them: the female during the day, and the male at night. Zoologists believe that the male gets the night shift because his darker plumage makes him less visible to predators.

Once the eggs hatch, however, dad’s job has only just begun. He will fervently defend the hatchlings from predators, as well as teach them how to eat.

The not-so-great dads:

Elephant – the nomadic dad

When an elephant bull is ready to mate he will pursue an elephant family until he selects a female and she accepts his advances. Once he has mated with a cow, he’ll either return to his herd or resume his solitary existence, leaving the cow to rear the calf by herself, but that’s fine – elephant females are the bosses, and herds are typically lead by the older matriarchs.

Leopard – the lover and leaver

The battle for Africa’s most elusive wild dad is between the leopard and cheetah. These dads don’t bother to stick around once they’ve mated. When a male and female leopard meet, they will pair for up to four or five days, after which the male leaves for good and the mother brings up the cubs alone.

Cheetah – the 60-second dad

The same can be said about the cheetah, where the extent of his fatherly duties lasts around one minute during the act of mating, after which he then leaves.

Rhino – the aggressive dad

Rhino dads don’t play much of a role in the upbringing and raising of the calf either. They will leave the female as soon as mating has occurred and go back to defending their territory. The mother of a calf is not likely to mate with a male until her calf has left her to pursue its own life of independence.

This sometimes results in aggression on the part of the male, who wants to rid her of her calf so that he can mate with her. Many calves have been killed by aggressive males for this very reason.

Gelada monkey – the baddest daddy out there

The male gelada monkey is possibly one of the most unsympathetic dads out there, this guy has no problem with corporal punishment and will even put juveniles of their species at physical risk. Male gelada monkeys have been know to fight off rival males using an infant – not necessarily his own offspring – as a defense, causing bodily harm to the youngster.

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