It was a winter evening when I got down from the bus near a rural village in Bandarsindhri (near Ajmer, Rajasthan) and was waiting to cross the road. I was surprised to witness a young bull calf being nursed by female dog in the middle of the crowd. This brought me back to my childhood days when I was obsessed and fancied Mowgli from Walt Disney’s “Jungle Book”. Love has different sources and forms. We all are familiar with childless couples adopting kids. Similar case happens in nature too where, the animals adopt orphaned young animals of their kind which is termed as “Kinship selection.”
A Parental instinct is something which is inborn yet hidden in almost all organisms. The scientific reason for exhibiting this hidden instinct could be the rise in the levels of Oxytocin (love hormone). For females, there are several reasons for this to kink in – either she could have lost her kids, or may be their death. Though it might be a common incident to some- this is intriguing. Nature has already set us many examples- one would be a leopard who adopted a baby baboon after it killed its mother, she even defended the baby from other predators even. Personally, I have witnessed my dog who has almost managed to adopt kittens- though she is not a complete mother to these kittens, she does everything to ensure their safety. Exact time period this instinct would last is not recorded.
What exactly drives, these “unique Parents’ to nurse different young? Or why should she care for one, if all her hormones are being set to help her species survive. Well, the right reason would be definitely the loss of her kids which had all the possibilities to survive. At this particular time, all her maternal hormones would be at its peak, which eventually directs her to look for someone whom she can render the most.
Mysterious and dramatic are the ways of nature. Sometimes these strange “Animal Adoptions” could be an evolutionary break through, but sometimes it has to abide by the nature’s laws. Hence there lies a question amidst this motherly/parental instinct- will the adopted kids survive? Well the answer will mostly be a ‘no’. Nobody can predict in the wild how long this motherly instinct can last. Nevertheless these kids can meet an early death. But we do have records of Amala and Kamala – who were raised by wolves among whom, one survived upto 16 years.
Nature poses several possibilities and examples for us to ponder over. Sometimes we might be able to land up into conclusions, sometimes we may not…….