What Animal is the Best Mother?

From The Smithsonian:

Best-Mother-Animal-Cheetah-631 Parenting styles have been and always will be a subject of hot debate. But rather than judge who among our own kind is the fittest mother, we turn our gaze to the entire animal kingdom and ask, what animal is the best mother?

Props could certainly go to elephant mothers who endure staggering 22-month pregnancies. Also, polar bears. A female polar bear has to double her weight or else her body might absorb the fetus. (Both animals made Animal Planet’s list of “Top 10 Animal Moms.”) Then there are lions, who make especially benevolent mothers. In fact, each lactating mother in a pride will allow any offspring, including other females’ cubs, to nurse from her. With so many factors to weigh, I took the question to Craig Saffoe, a biologist and curator of the Great Cats and Bears units at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “I think if you are looking at who are the best moms, you’d have to think about who protects their young, who ensures that their young survive to independence,” says Saffoe. “And then there is also just how they deal with the infants. Infants are so fragile, and not every animal is great with that.”

More here.