With Mother’s Day around the corner, we’re thinking about the mums of the animal kingdom. There are a lot of mums to celebrate for their dedication to their babies, but what about those that wouldn’t win any mothering awards? Here’s our top 5 bad mummies!
There’s no surprise that cuckoos are first on our list of worst mums. The only mothering they can be credited for is laying their eggs. They don’t even build their own nests. Instead, cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds before taking off and leaving another species to raise their little ones.
What’s worse than the abandonment though, is that this often leads to the death of the host birds chicks. Cuckoos are known to push eggs out of the nest to make room for theirs. Cuckoo chicks also tend to hatch first and grow quicker than the others in the nest. They then force them out of the nest or stop them from getting food by taking most of it themselves.
If you have a sibling, you’ll know all about arguing. Unlike human mums, though, black eagle mums don’t step in; they let it happen. In fact, they are well known for letting their chicks fight to the death, a phenomenon known as siblicide. It’s so common that it is unusual for both of their two chicks to survive to fledge. By letting it happen, black eagle mums ensure there is ample food for the fitter offspring.
You may think these cute, cuddly-looking animals would make good mums, but there’s a good reason they are on our list. And it’s not just that they have a habit of accidentally rolling over or stepping on their young. It is very common for pandas to give birth to twins, but often only one survives. Mummy pandas turn all their attention to the strongest of the two and completely ignore and neglect to feed the other one.
It sounds very harsh, but it comes down to survival of the fittest at the end of the day. Because bamboo is so low in nutrients, it’s unlikely one mummy panda has enough energy or milk to nurture two healthy babies. So, instead of risking the lives of both, she concentrates on making sure one survives and grows up to be fit and healthy.
For the first 12 days of their pups life, mummy harp seals come across very well. They care for them, feed them every couple of hours and protect them from predators. After that, however, they go off to feed and mate and leave their pups alone on the ice, where they must fend for themselves. They can’t swim or hunt yet so it’s an extremely risky period for them, though those that survive are better prepared to handle the harsh conditions in which they live.
The reason hamsters will never win the award for best mummy is a rather horrible one – they are known to eat their young!
There are many reasons why this may occur, and like the other animals on our list, it’s down to survival. Hamsters have large litters, sometimes up to 16 babies at a time. That’s a lot to look after. A hamster that feels stressed, threatened, or fearful may eat babies to reduce her litter’s size and lower her stress. Likewise, if there is not enough food to go around, she may eat some of her babies to increase the amount of food available for others. It is likely she will choose to eat the smallest and weakest ones first.