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Mothers come in all stripes

  • Safari West hoofstock "moms" Nikki Smith, right, and Erika Mittelman, bottle feed their eager babies antelope.

    Erika feeds a Nile lechwe born on April 17th, while Nikki struggles with two dama gazelles born on April 11th and 13th.

A mother wildebeest doesn't get flowers and a card on Mother's Day. For her, it's just another day on the job.

And she's got plenty to do. For example, she has to get her newborn baby up and running within a few hours after birth, to keep up with the herd.

Giraffe moms have a different kind of problem. Their babies want to nurse for as long as two years, while jealous adult males try to bully the kids.

Baby Animals & Moms At Safari West

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The behavior may seem strange, but motherhood among the animals is surprisingly similar to human parenting, said animal experts at the 400-acre Safari West wild animal preserve outside Santa Rosa, home to 850 animals.

"Mothers are mothers," said Nikki Smith, whose title is hoof-stock manager, in charge of antelope, wildebeest, giraffes and other hoofed beasts.

Different animals have different mothering styles, just as humans do, and similarities with various kinds of human child-rearing are easy to spot, park officials said.

Monkeys live in extended family groups, with females available to nurture any baby that needs it. Flamingos nest so close together the environment is almost like communal child care.

Baby antelopes are home alone a lot, stashed by mom in the brush — away from the herd, out of sight and safe from predators — with the mother watching discreetly from a distance.

In all of these species, the mother is always watching out for her children.

"The protective instincts that mother animals have are beyond description. It's more than nurturing," Smith said.


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