Meet the animal kingdom's most unlikely surrogate parents

Meet the animal kingdom's most unlikely surrogate parents

You ain’t half odd, mum! From the dog who’s taken an owl under his paw to the hippo who calls a tortoise his mother, meet the animal kingdom’s most unlikely surrogate parents

They say love is love — and it seems that’s a principle which applies as much to animals as it does to humans.

Last week, the story of how year-old gorilla Hasani is being lovingly raised by surrogate mum Kera, another gorilla at Bristol Zoo, after his natural mum Kala was unable to care for him, shows we are not the only species happy to adopt little ones in need.

Here, TANITH CAREY finds some touching examples of animals lending a paw (or wing) to help others in need of companionship and protection . . .

Pusha the cat took in four orphaned red squirrels in Bakhchysarai, Crimea

CAT WHO FED AND FUSSED OVER FOUR ADOPTED BABY SQUIRRELS

On the same day Pusha gave birth to four kittens in Bakhchysarai, Crimea, she took in four orphaned red squirrels.

The month-old squirrels, found abandoned in an animal park in 2019, were handed to staff, who decided to see if their resident cat would take care of them.

Within hours, Pusha was letting them share her milk, grooming and licking them.

Now the squirrels live in the park, as she couldn’t show them how to collect nuts! 

A year-old male hippo Owen has been taken in by giant tortoise Mzee 

GIANT TORTOISE WHO BECAME MUM TO A HIPPO 

When the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean hit the coast of Kenya, it washed a herd of hippos wallowing in inland pools out to sea.

A year-old male hippo found himself stranded alone on a sandy reef and was rescued by locals, who named him Owen and took him to the Haller Park Rescue Centre, an animal sanctuary 50 miles away.

There, he was put in a large enclosure that was already home to a giant tortoise called Mzee.

Pining for his mother, Owen ran to the tortoise and hid behind him.

Keepers believe Mzee’s brown, domed shell may have reminded Owen of his lost parent — and, luckily, the elderly tortoise didn’t seem to mind.

The next day, the pair were found still snuggled up together and soon were inseparable, walking, eating and even swimming together.

After two years, Owen grew to twice Mzee’s size and started being introduced to other hippos — but the unlikely pair are still companions.

Welsh mountain pong Heidi has taken in three-month-old orphaned lambs Prince, Dewdrop and George

MARE WHO HADN’T FINISHED MOTHERING 

Welsh mountain pony Heidi wasn’t quite done with motherhood after having her own foal five years ago.

When Becky Popham brought home three-month-old orphaned lambs Prince, Dewdrop and George from a nearby farm in May last year, after their mother died, the ten-year-old mare stepped in to help, snuggling them and standing by patiently while they tried to feed.

Owner and mother-of-three Popham, 34, said: ‘Heidi started by lying down with them. From there it went to them standing under her. She then began licking them and produced a little bit of milk to feed them.

‘She let them latch on and they butted into her udders like lambs do — she stood there and licked them. She obviously knew they needed a mummy.

‘I asked the vet and he said that was absolutely fine. Her maternal instincts just kicked in.’

Orangutan Anggun was orphaned when she was just a few months old by poachers who wanted to sell her as a pet. Her rescuers knew who to call in to help — another female orang, Monti

SURROGATE ORANGUTAN WHO CAME TO APE ORPHAN’S RESCUE 

In 2018, orangutan Anggun was orphaned when she was just a few months old by poachers who wanted to sell her as a pet. Her rescuers knew who to call in to help — another female orang, Monti, who had been rescued in the same circumstances ten years earlier.

Monti was being prepared for a return to the wild by the charity International Animal Rescue at their ‘forest school’ sanctuary in Indonesia — and she taught Anggun what she had learnt, such as how to open a coconut, forage for food and build nests in the trees.

She also displayed a mother’s love, allowing Anggun to eat and drink before her and sleep on her belly.

Last year, the pair were released in a protected national park, where it is hoped both will eventually breed.

But as orang babies stay with their mums for up to seven years, for now they are just happy to be together.

When Roberta the miniature donkey lost her mother 24 hours after she was born in 2018, not one but two surrogate mums stepped in to help

SHEEP THAT ARE DONKEY BABYSITTERS 

When Roberta the miniature donkey lost her mother 24 hours after she was born in 2018, not one but two surrogate mums stepped in to help.

While staff at Folly Farm, a petting zoo in South Wales, hand-reared the orphan on goat’s milk, two hand-reared sheep called Lamby and Snowy stepped in to help with the babysitting.

Kim Brickell, assistant farm manager, said: ‘They bonded straight away. We weren’t sure how it was going to go. Roberta was small and fragile but Lamby and Snowy were really kind to her and soft. The three of them often cuddle up and play together.’ 

Male cheetah cub Kumbali is friends with ten-week-old labrador rescue pup Kago 

MAN’S BEST FRIEND PROVED PERFECT PAL FOR A SAD CHEETAH 

Male cheetah cub Kumbali began losing weight two weeks after he was born in 2015, as his mother couldn’t produce enough milk for all three of her new arrivals.

Keepers at Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia, U.S., started to hand-rear Kumbali — but saw he still needed a friend, so they introduced him to ten-week-old labrador rescue pup Kago.

As cheetahs tend to be anxious animals, zoos have been using dogs as calming companions for orphaned cubs for more than 30 years.

This pair certainly hit it off and now live in their own enclosure where they chase, play and rest together. 

When week-old Dennis the duck lost his mother to a fox in 2012, four-year-old labrador Fred was happy to step in and become a paws-on stay-at-home dad

POOCH PAPA TO TEN DUCKLINGS 

Most people would be nervous about keeping their dogs around ducklings.

But when week-old Dennis the duck lost his mother to a fox in 2012, four-year-old labrador Fred, who also lived at Mountfitchet Castle in Essex, was happy to step in and become a paws-on stay-at-home dad.

Fred started licking the orphaned duckling’s feathers, so Dennis repaid him by following the dog around.

Soon he was piggybacking on Fred’s head and the pair even went swimming together (although admittedly Dennis had more of an instinct for it).

After Fred had helped to raise Dennis to adulthood, it seems he still couldn’t get enough of fatherhood.

Six years later, he did it again when, at the age of ten, he adopted a brood of ducklings after their mother was also killed by a fox. This time he let all nine hitch a ride — and allowed them to sleep between his protective paws. 

Orphaned pygmy owl Poldi is best friends with Belgian Malinois Ingo 

BIG DOG WHO ADOPTED A TINY OWL 

Owls are not known for being sociable — so the bond between an orphaned pygmy owl and a Belgian Malinois dog 30 times his size is truly extraordinary.

In 2013, Poldi was a chick whose mother had abandoned him after he hatched late. He was taken in by Tanja Brandt, 52, from Düsseldorf in Germany, who thought her grumpy four-year-old dog Ingo might try to kill the new arrival — but he was gentle, and Poldi soon began hopping on Ingo’s head to be taken on walks. If he wants his canine pal’s attention, he nips at his ears! 

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