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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.

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.

"They are always aware of where their kids are and what they need," she added. "It's the same as with human moms. They're aware of the babies' different cries and what they mean."

Even when there's intense pressure to keep up with the herd, a mother wildebeest will linger with an ailing baby as long she dares, Smith explained.

"Baby wildebeests are born during migration season, so it's imperative that they get moving very quickly. If you're not ready to go, then you get left behind," Smith said.

"The mother will do her best to defend her baby. If it's lame, she will usually stay with it," she continued. "But if there's something seriously wrong, she'll know that, and if she needs to, she will put herself first, to survive."

For a young giraffe at Safari West, life among its long-legged relatives isn't always easy.

"The adult males have a tendency to be quite aggressive toward the young offspring, especially if it's not their offspring," Smith said.

Among the park's primates — De Brazza's, patas and colobus monkeys, and ring-tailed and ruffed lemurs — extended families are the rule, said Marie Barbera, animal collections manager.

"With the monkeys and lemurs, once the female has given birth, she is the sole caregiver, but the other females in the group also aid in the raising of the babies," Barbera said. "The males are on the outskirts, protecting them."

Primate babies will cling to mom for up to three months before venturing a few feet away and gradually exploring farther, always under the watchful eyes of the tribe's females.

Birds like togetherness, too. Flamingo families are a gregarious and rowdy lot, Barbera explained.

"Flamingos' nests are anywhere from a foot to two (feet) tall and made of mud. The nests are all very close together, so flamingos have one to two eggs in a very close-knit colony, and they're yelling at each other all the time if anybody gets too close," Barbera said. "When the egg hatches, both the parents guard that hatchling, which is on top of the mud nest. Every now and then, the hatchling ventures down, and the parents are right there with it."

In the animal world, growing up can be hard to do. It's not uncommon for an adolescent monkey or giraffe to still crave its mother's attention, even when the young animal is almost grown, Smith said.

"Everybody — human or animal — wants to be coddled by mom," she said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. )