A herd of elephants drink from Selinda Spillway at dusk – up to 5,000 individuals have been recorded in the reserve in winter.
Photograph by Joel Sartore
Male red foxes are attentive dads, playing excitedly with their pups and bringing food home for the whole family. After about three months, though, the gravy train stops and the young foxes must find their own meals. Dad doesn’t let them go hungry, however—he hides food nearby, helping teach the pups to sniff out a snack.
Photograph by Nicole Duplaix
The male rhea, a large, flightless bird from South America related to the ostrich, has a bit of a wandering eye when it comes to mating. But no one could accuse him of being an absentee dad. Each mating season, male rheas build a nest and invite the members of their harem, up to 15 females, to deposit their eggs. The females then go off to look for other mates while the male stays to incubate the clutch, which can contain 25 to 50 eggs. For six weeks the father eats little and rarely leaves the nest. He then rears the hatchlings, defending them aggressively and charging any animal—even a female rhea—that approaches too closely.
Photograph by George Grall
It’s true that male seahorses never play catch with their children or help them with their homework. But they do outdo human dads on one count—by giving birth. Seahorses are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young, a unique trait in these fish that inhabit tropical and temperate coastal waters worldwide.
Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch on their ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female deposits her eggs into his pouch, and the male fertilizes them internally. He carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water.
Photograph courtesy Giuseppe Zibordi/Michael Van Woert/
NOAA NESDIS, ORA
Traditional parenting roles are reversed for emperor penguins, which live only on the harsh Antarctic ice. After a female penguin lays an egg during the winter breeding season, she promptly takes off to feed at sea. The job of keeping the precious egg warm falls squarely on the male’s shoulders—or feet, to be exact.
Males stand and protect the egg by balancing them on their feet and covering them with feathered skin known as a brood pouch. During this two-month period, the males eat nothing and are at the mercy of the Antarctic elements. Once the chick is hatched, the male feeds it with milk from a gland in his esophagus. When the female returns with a bellyful of food to regurgitate for the chick, the male heads off for his own feeding session at sea.
Photograph by Chris Johns
Male lions are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to fathering. Notorious loungers, they’ll lie in the shade, often ignoring their cubs, while the females risk life and limb on the hunt. When a kill is made, they show up and insist on being first to eat, sometimes leaving only scraps for the rest of the pride. It’s not until his family is threatened that the male’s fatherly instincts kick in. Often charged with the welfare of a dozen lionesses and 20 or more cubs, a male lion will summon all his celebrated ferocity to protect his pride.
Photograph by John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk
There’s no getting around it: Male grizzly bears make bad dads. Male grizzlies take no part in the rearing of their offspring, which would be excusable if it weren’t for another trait: They will kill any grizzly bear cub they find within their range on the off chance that the baby is not their own. Theories abound, but scientists are at a loss to explain this infanticidal behavior.
Silverback Mountain Gorilla
Photograph by Michael Nichols
Adult male gorillas, called silverbacks, play the role of stern patrician. As the leader of a family group that can be as large as 30 individuals, they will lead their underlings to food, settle disputes within the clan, and fight to repel outside threats, particularly from other male gorillas, who will kill babies when seeking to usurp a silverback’s group. They will also play affectionately with their offspring but will often turn nasty if a youngster pesters too stubbornly or an adolescent male challenges for dominance.