Spring is here, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming and Mother's Day is quickly upon us. Consider strolling through the zoo with Mom to celebrate her day. While visiting, you can see the newest babies in the zoo: the alpaca, Bactrian camel, addax and Goeldi's monkey. From very large to very small, hooves to hands, overly protective to laid-back, moms are all different but they all have an important job.

Some moms cover just the basics needed to continue the species, while others make a more long-term investment. Loggerhead sea turtles dig a number of nests (usually three to eight), lay about 100 eggs in each one, bury the eggs and leave. The eggs and the hatchlings that are produced are on their own from that point on. Her investment is in the number of eggs produced in order to get the few that survive rather than a longer investment of time spent protecting and raising a smaller number of offspring to get a few to reach adulthood. Generally, if the young are born pretty much ready to go out into the world or develop quickly to that point, there is less of a long-term parental investment. Rabbit moms create soft, safe, warm burrows for their babies. Shortly after birth, mom heads out, only to return briefly each day to feed the offspring for the next few weeks. Once they are furred and have their eyes open, the little ones are ready to be on their own. American alligator moms fiercely guard their nests and young. The hatchlings stay under the protective eye of their mother for about two years. Orangutan mothers will raise their young (usually just single births), teaching them the ins and outs of life in the wild, for up to 10 years before the youngster is independent.

Many moms are on their own when it comes to caring for the "kids." But others have help. A male seahorse actually carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch (yes, the males have the pouches). Male poison dart frogs will watch over the eggs and once hatched, carry the tadpoles to safer, more suitable locations where they continue their transformation into small frogs. Male Goeldi's monkeys, and older siblings if there are any, help carry the baby after the first few weeks, often taking over most of the rearing duties, except for the nursing. Lions, African wild dogs and elephants, to name a few, have prides, packs and herds to help raise the young.

Whether it's numbers instead of time with the absent turtle mom, the protective alligator, the scholarly orangutan, the "stay at home" dad or the herd nursery, each species has developed its own rearing techniques. While each method is different and each mom is different, what counts is that they get the job done. None of us would be where we are without our "moms." Happy Mother's Day from Lee Richardson Zoo.

Visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.