Which wild animals are the best fathers?

This article is published in partnership with Quora, a platform on which Internet users can ask questions and where others, experts in the subject, answer them. Question of the day: “Which wild animal is the best father?”

Serge Elia’s answer:

Where do I start answering this question? Here are five examples of the most loving fathers in the animal kingdom:


Many people think that male tigers don’t really care about raising their cubs – implying that parenting is the sole responsibility of female tigers – but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, despite his status as a solitary animal, the male tiger proves to be a much better father than the lion and all other big cats, as he will gladly help his companions. itself in the education and protection of the infant, and will so to share its prey with its family without a fight.

One particular individual named Zalim from Ranthambore National Park in India took this to the next level by single-handedly taking care of two orphaned tiger cubs following the death of their mother. He volunteered to take care of two orphans, as he raised, fed and protected them like a single father, which gave them a chance to survive and grow.

You may wonder? In July 2021, foresters working in the Panna Tiger Reserve, still in India, crossed paths with another male, who did the same to four orphans. Indeed, he also provided these cubs with all the parental care they needed, as he brought them food (which he did by deliberately letting his prey in their territory), never leave their bed and teach them how to hunt – in other words, this male has actually taken on the maternal role for the litter.

This behavior is really confusing for the lucky men to have the opportunity to witness such an extraordinary event. But as far as we know, these supposedly rare situations are likely to happen more often than you think – especially since it’s not because people don’t see this behavior on a daily basis that it should be taken as a matter of fact. does not exist.

“Tigers have very complex social systems, hierarchies and relationships.”

Suyash Keshari, wildlife filmmaker

It doesn’t stop there: it is believed that father tigers will only tolerate children of their own lineage, while they will kill any females bred by another male – most likely Zalim and his son. Panna’s males recognized the orphans as theirs. However, according to experts, this is not entirely certain. But recently it has actually been established that even stepfathers of tigers (not related to the cubs) are happy to break this mold!

I’m not kidding, wildlife filmmaker Suyash Keshari witnessed it first-hand. Thus, he met a tiger family of one female, her four cubs, and a stepfather who didn’t kill them, even though he was not the actual biological father – or rather, the male. have actually accepted the presence of these young without any aggression, to the point where the whole family is often seen congregating around their prey, lounging in the territory or drinking together in close proximity. a water hole…

On this level, it’s an entirely new behavior that has changed practically everything we thought we knew about tigers and their personalities. Suyash Keshari went even further, saying that “All these cases have proven to us that tigers have very complex social systems, hierarchies and relationships, and most of them will never be understood by us. To some extent, we can only surmise.”

Tibetan fox

I have seen this in many animal documentaries: the Tibetan fox is a true devoted father. As monogamous animals, it and its mate stay together throughout their lives and often take turns raising and feeding their young (called cubs) until they 8 years to 10 months old – then they leave them to start a new life.

If the mother dies for any reason, the male will not give up his parental role at a young age. He will continue to care for, feed, and protect his cubs as a single father.

The gharials

Male dogs deserve the title of the most attentive and devoted fathers of all reptiles. Indeed, other crocodiles do not take on any role in reproducing and protecting their young. Moreover, the baby crocodile and the female alligator never know their biological father… and that’s good, because given the opportunity, an adult male or male alligator will not hesitate to kill and devours any small one that comes within its reach, even the ones it has. appeared before.

A gharial carrying a baby on its back. Both males and females take care of their young. | Goodfriend19 via Wikimedia Commons

Male cobras, on the other hand, take care of babies that belong to all the females they mate – they carry, often on their backs and sometimes on their heads, hundreds or more to make them pass. safely cross the river and protect them from any potential danger.

And it goes even further: Typically, male alligators engage in an activity called “parenting,” which involves providing parental care for non-biological or Not related by blood — in other words, those super-loving crocodiles will participate, even if the ones aren’t their own. A truly unique behavior for a reptile.


In seahorses, it is the fish that gives birth to children. | Betty Wills (Atsme) via Commons Wikimedia

In the world of seahorses, contrary to what is commonly seen in other animals, it is the seahorse who carries the surrogate mother – the reason for this remains a mystery. The female actually transfers her eggs into the male’s abdominal sac, which uses his sperm to fertilize them as they enter his abdomen, before incubating them for 24 days.

At the time of childbirth, the male walrus engages in a series of muscle contractions and generalized contractions (much like women about to give birth in the human world). Then the belly opens and the baby is born.

African cane toad

As soon as the mating is over, the male cane toads take on the guard of the tadpoles. It’s not easy, as it involves keeping around 1,000 healthy larvae and living in small ponds located at the edge of larger bodies of water, under the scorching African sun! It is a very dangerous period indeed, when the vulnerable tadpoles are at risk of dying from dehydration as rising temperatures cause the ponds and lakes to evaporate and dry out rapidly.

The African cane toad takes care of the tadpoles. A difficult task, as there may be 1,000 people watching and helping to survive. | Steven G. Johnson via Wikimedia Commons

Luckily, dad bullfrog is dedicated and will do anything to save his baby. Indeed, its dexterity and instincts prompted it to use its powerful hind legs to dig a canal connecting the two ponds, forming a passage through which the tadpoles could swim and have a chance to get close. death. Everyone cheers on sugarcane toad!

The birds

The Baltimore Orioles are perfectly capable of making good single dads. | Åsa Berndtsson via Wikimedia Commons

Many birds (from emperor penguins to bald eagles) are monogamous, they mate for life, return to the same nest every year, frequently share parenting duties, and constantly take turns incubating. eggs and feed the chicks. But some species, such as the Baltimore brood, take things to the extreme.

Therefore, the males continue to feed the chicks for several days, even after the chicks have left the nest, to give them a better chance of survival. And if the female begins to build a new nest long before her predecessor becomes independent, the father bird will become the “super-dad” and take care of his cubs on his own.

Myths about lions

Before concluding my answer, I must disprove the misconception about male lions, currently spreading on the internetmeaning that the lion father will pretend to be injured when bitten by his cubs, to encourage them to perfect their hunting skills.

A lioness warns her cubs playing with her tail. Because a bite, even from a cub, can always be painful. | John Storr via Wikimedia Commons

It’s completely wrong. Adult lions (both male and female) don’t really appreciate cubs having fun with them in this way, especially since these are games that help prepare these cubs for what’s not to come. more than a day is the game. A lion cub’s bite can sometimes be painful, and no animal likes to be bitten, even if it’s just a game: what would your reaction be if your child played with you in a similar way? on one’s own? So when they growl loudly, the lions are actually trying to scare off their cubs and prevent them from playing, rather than encouraging them as the hoax claims.

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