Time magazine recently featured an article discussing the ability of animals to grieve. Tangential to its question is a topic that has been popping up in media outlets everywhere: have we been overlooking animal intelligence? Whether it’s The Wall Street Journal or the Associated Press, people are finally beginning to reassess the scope of animals’ abilities. Here are five stories of inspiring animal mothers that will leave no doubt in your mind that animals are capable of compassion, nurturing, and kindness that can only stem from a level of intelligence that they have long been denied.
1. A Beary Serious Situation
When a baby bear got trapped inside a Northern California woman’s garage––likely enticed by food scraps in the garbage––it didn’t take long for mama bear to come looking for her cub. After managing to scramble up the garage door frame, the cub performed a few acrobatic moves, perilously dangling from the bar, before its mother lifted open the garage door to call to her child––and all of this was caught on tape. Not only was the mother bear able to quickly locate her young, but she knew to lift and push up the garage door to free him. The little bear utilized a tool, a nearby ladder, to aid his climb down from the frame after hearing his mother’s call. Luckily, no one was hurt and mother and cub sprinted away together after being reunited.
2. An Elephant-Sized Entanglement
In Zambia, a baby elephant stumbled into a sinkhole and found herself stuck. Her mother and their herd attempted to rescue the young bull, but the clan began to back off when the ordeal became too dangerous and seemed hopeless. The mother refused to leave her child and continued the rescue attempt, becoming stuck herself. When mother and child began to sink fast, a local conservation group, South Luangwa Conservation Society, stepped in. Using ropes, the rescuers pulled the baby elephant up first––it called to its mother, not wanting to separate from her. Workers had to distract her in order to keep the little elephant from returning to the sinkhole to be with her mom. Much heavier, the mother required being hauled up by ropes tied to a tractor. After sensing she and her baby were free from the pit, they ran together to join the rest of the herd.
3. A Moo-ving Tale
Veterinarian Holly Cheever shared a story about a mother cow she was asked to examine at a dairy farm in upstate New York. The cow had given birth for the fifth time, but even after her calf was taken away from her by farmers, it seemed she wasn’t producing as much milk as new mothers usually do. Nearly two weeks after giving birth, it was discovered that the cow had actually delivered twins, and chose to hide one of the calves from the farmers. Cheever is quick to point out the cow’s ability to remember the disappearance of her newborns, following each of her four previous births. She was able to process this information and mentally negotiate giving up one of the calves in order to hide and save the other. Every morning and evening, for 11 days, the mother cow walked out to the edge of the pasture and tended to her baby. Sadly, after the calf was discovered––and even with several pleas from Cheever––the farmer took it from its mother.
4. Puppy Preservation
A German shepherd mix named Amanda was the mother of five 10-day old puppies in Santa Rosa de Temuco, Chile when a house fire broke out. While firefighters were preoccupied putting out the flames, Amanda knew exactly what to do and sprang into action––carrying the babies in her mouth, she rescued her young from the burning home, one by one. She set them on the steps of the fire truck outside, out of harm’s way, and refused to part with the puppies during the entire ordeal. Though one of the pups was severely burned and did not make it (Amanda never left his side, the vet said), her other four babies survived safe and sound, thanks to Amanda’s quick thinking.
5. Precious Piglets
A pregnant sow was confined to a gestation crate at a factory farm and severely abused by the farm’s employees. They beat, kicked, and shocked her with an electric cattle prod. When animal-rescue group Farm Sanctuary was alerted about the severe mistreatment of the breeding pig, they rescued her from the farm––naming her Julia––and very soon after, as a result of the flagrant abuse, she gave birth to 16 premature piglets. Despite the fear and cruelty the mother endured at the pig farm, she learned to trust Sanctuary staff. “Though she had never before been treated with kindness, she knew at once how to trust the kindness of her new caregivers. And though factory breeding sows are never allowed to care for their babies, Julia knew at once how to give hers boundless love and patience,” Meredith Turner of Farm Sanctuary shares.
With these heartwarming tales of animal mothers extending their empathy, kindness, and quick thinking, it is hard not to recognize the intelligence of animals. And if sweet anecdotes aren’t enough for the hard-headed out there, The Wall Street Journal writes, “Science keeps chipping away at the wall that separates us from the other animals … This is no insult to human superiority. It is long-overdue recognition that intelligent life is not something for us to seek in the outer reaches of space but is abundant right here on earth, under our noses.” Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in the world.
Photo via Farm Sanctuary