One of the first questions I ask myself in researching a true animal story about a baby animal’s first year of life is what that animal needs to survive. All animals share a basic need for food, shelter, and safety. Most babies are dependent on at least one parent to provide for their needs and protect them until they are old enough to learn the basic skills of survival themselves. Here are three animal babies from my books Lootas Little Wave Eater, Hansa, and Growing Up Gorilla, and one important skill they need to survive. As you read through these, think about an important skill a human baby needs to survive.
A sea otter spends its whole life in the ocean but cannot swim or feed itself when it is born. The mother carries her pup on her belly most of the day while she floats on her back and cleans and feeds it. When it’s time for the mother to dive for food, she wraps her pup in kelp to hide it from predators. A baby sea otter needs a thick coat of fur (500,000 hairs per square inch) that with regular grooming by mom, keeps the pup floating on the ocean surface like a cork until her mother returns.
Elephants in the wild are constantly on the move. They can travel as much as 20 miles a day with the rest of the herd. When a baby elephant is born, the herd will stop long enough for the mother to clean her newborn and encourage the baby to stand up within its first half hour of life. A baby elephant needs strong legs to follow her mother and the rest of the herd.
A baby gorilla completely depends on its mother for food, warmth and protection when it is first born. A mother gorilla weighs several hundred pounds and needs to eat constantly to stay healthy on a diet of fruits, leaves and stems. The family troop, led by an adult male silverback, is on the move looking for food and building new nests every day. A baby gorilla needs a strong grip to hold onto her mother while she moves with the troop and searches for food.
For more stories of what baby animals need to survive in the wild around the world, check out the new PBS series: Animal Babies First Year on Earth streaming live.