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Africa Geographic
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Every year on the 14th May in South Africa (and also in many other countries) we celebrate Mothers Day – a day to appreciate and acknowledge the vital role mothers play through our journey of life.

While we’re all grateful for our human mothers, we’d like to turn the attention on all the WILD ones out there! Wild mothers are a species who face a number of threats on a daily basis. They are brave, strong, and they will fiercely protect their offspring.

Here are a few fun facts about the wild mothers of the Animal Kingdom.


Lionesses are benevolent mothers, as each lactating mother in the pride will allow not only her own offspring, but any cub from the pride to nurse from her.

Photo by: Massimo da Silvo, Makanyi Private Game Lodge

lioness and cubs
©Massimo da Silva, Makanyi Private Game Lodge

Elephant mothers endure 22-month pregnancies, Female elephants (cows) help to look after each other’s calves. Babysitting other calves is important for elephant development – young females learn how to look after the young, and the calves are shown how it’s done. The survival rate of a calf greatly increases when more females are present and willing take care of it.

Photo by: Safari With Us

elephant and calf
©Safari With Us

Hyena mothers are devoted to their cubs. Before giving birth, hyena mothers look for a birth den that is separate from the clan’s communal den. The birth den only has a single, narrow entry. After giving birth, the mothers stay at the den for about two weeks to build a strong bond with their offspring. After two weeks, they carry their cubs to the communal den to socially integrate them into the clan.

Photo by: Senalala Luxury Safari Camp

©Senalala Luxury Safari Camp

A cheetah’s gestation periods lasts for about 93 days and a litter may contain two to eight cubs. A cheetah mother will raise her cubs by herself as the females are naturally solitary animals – though young females tend to occupy the same range as their mothers.

Photo by: Bushtops Camps

©Bushtops Camps

The gestation period for leopards is between 90 and 112 days. Leopard litters typically contain two to three cubs. Leopards have strong maternal bonds. Even though the young become independent at about 22 months, the mother may continue to share kills with her offspring until they become totally self-sufficient.

Photo by: Edward Selfe, Kafunta Safaris

©Edward Selfe, Kafunta Safaris

A female giraffe is pregnant for up to 465 days before the baby – usually one, although twins are possible – is born. Once it is time for the delivery, the mother will step away from the herd so she can give birth alone. At the time of birth, babies can be as tall as 6.6 feet. That’s a good thing since giraffe mothers give birth standing up – and it would be a long way to the ground if the babies were much smaller!

Photo by: Mara Bushtops

©Mara Bushtops

Buffalos usually have one calf at a time, and a mother buffalo will carry the calf for a gestation period of 9 to 11 months before giving birth. Once born, the calf will stay with its mother for around three years. Then, male calves will move to a bachelor herd, while the female calves stay with the female herd.

Photo by: Darren Donovan, Tintswalo Safari Lodge

©Darren Donovan, Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Females baboons tend to give birth every other year. They usually have one infant and their gestation period is six months. The bond between mother and infant baboon is very special. The mother will carry the young until it is able to ride on her back. They are in constant contact for the first few months, and the mother is very attentive. Only once an infant reaches around four months of age will they be allowed to play and interact with other young baboons.

Photo by: The Hide Safari Camp

©The Hide Safari Camp

It takes about 165 days from conception for the young to be born, and typically only one baby is born at a time. The young are well cared for and the mother won’t have another baby for a few years as long as she has one to care for. If something should happen to her baby though, the mother vervet monkey will mourn her loss. She will also aim to get pregnant again to rekindle that bonding experience.

Photo by: Senalala Luxury Safari Camp

©Senalala Luxury Safari Camp
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