The mammal that takes parenting to the extreme is the elephant. It takes nearly 22 months to make a baby elephant, longer than any other animal. During that time the embryo floats in its own centrally-heated world - an echo of life’s earliest existence in warm primeval seas. It is safer here than inside an egg as the mother has total control over the baby’s growth. After investing all that effort even before birth it is not surprising that mammals take exceptional care of their young. For a mammal mother, birth is just the start of a long and demanding job. A mammal mother is a mobile milk bar and this an even greater drain on her than pregnancy. Milk is highly nutritious and is the only food that baby needs. Like all mammals, baby elephants learn through play, and it is a good excuse to mess around.

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