MOTHER KNOWS BEST
How animal parents train their young
Do animals train their young? Yes, indeed! Training plays an important role in their lives. Here survival is involved.
Instinct is the most important factor, of course. But a limited amount of intelligence is also quite useful. If they are to survive, young animals need to be taught how to get food, they also need to learn to recognize danger and to know how to face or avoid it. Animal parents do not indeed give reasons to their small ones; they do not explain why and how they have to do this or that. But they teach by example and sometimes they have to use a little “cruelty” to enforce disipline.
Animal parents spend much time in training their young ones. A she-bear may take up to two years teaching her cubs. She shows them where they can find food, teaching them to dig for edible roots. She introduced them to the sweetness of honey, a food that plays a very important role in the rest of their lives.
Certain young animals have to get training to do the very things that we generally regard as instinctive. Consider the water-loving otters. Did you know that mother otter has to teach her babies how to swim? In fact, she has to teach them to like water, because they will not go into it of their own accord. How does she do it? She may drag them into water with some force, pulling them by the skin of thier neck. Or she may urge them to get on her back. The splash, into the water mama goes! For a while she swims around with her little ones hanging on timidly. Suddenly, she submerges! Now the young otters are forced to swim or sink, and so they try to swim! At the first day they are awkward, but bit by bit they learn.
A mother seal, also, has to take time to teach her little one how to swim. When in the water, mama persuades and urges her baby to try swimming under him. Should he appear to be in distress, she puts her head under his belly and pushes his head up out of the water. After a while, the young seal is able to swim on his own.
How does a young flying squirrel learn how to glide? His mother simply pushes him off a tree branch. The youngster seems to know instinctively what to do to make the fall enjoyable. He spreads out his tiny feet, and the thin, soft membrane on each side connecting his front and back legs forms a kind of parachute, enabling him to glide safely to the ground. Instinct will tell the mother when her youngster is ready to learn this skill . if she pushed him out of tree at too young an age. It could cause his death.
As the time approaches for young birds to leran to fly, they begin exercising to develop tyhier flying muscles. They stertch their necks, open their wings and twist around and around. The mother bird urges them to leave their nest and try flying. She stands a few feet away, offering some bits of food to encourage them to get out and try their wings. In cases where the nest is in a very high place, it is essential to make the first attempt successful.
In order to eat, a young creatures who live by the sea need to learn how to catch fish. Seals, sea lions and polar bears dive into the water and come up with a fish. They release it in front of their hungry youngsters. This encourages the babies to grab the prey before it can escape.
Once they are big enough to seek for food for themselves, their parents` interest in feeding them stops by instinct. They will then be on their own.
The training also includes avoiding dangers. How do animal parents warn their little ones about these? A mother deer teaches her young to fear man by herself demonstrating such fear at the sight or scent of man.
When a mother wolf comes near a trap with her cubs for the first time, she shows great fear. Her children see her reaction and learn that traps are to be avoided.
The defence reaction of animals againt danger seem to be obtained mainly by learning and not merely by instinct . Giant rats that were born in zoo in Paris, Frence, did not show and fear meeting a large python. They even approached it calmly. But their parents attacked the snake violently. Why? The parents were born in Africa and they were well aware of a danger that they had known in their native land.
Sometimes the animal parents do not hesitate to use harshness in teaching thier young ones. A mother cat, teaching her kittens how to catch mice, slaps their ears if they are slow or careless.
Goats in mountains of Scotland send their kids ahead of them through the rocks. Should a kid take a step in the wrong direction, a butt from his mother` s horns will let him know it.
Lions, bears, squirrels and other animals also do not heritate to punish their disobedient youngsters. They repay stupidity by a sharp blow, a shake or bite. It is for the young ones benefit. Parental discipline helps them to stay alive.