Worst Animal Parents

Here are the worst animal parents in the world!


Having kids is no walk in the park, but if you thought your childhood wasn’t perfect just wait until you discover what goes down in the animal kingdom. From mothers encouraging sibling violence to sneaky abandonment tactics and even hungry mommas chowing down on their own spawn for lunch, here are some of the worst animal parents around.


Cuckoos are some of the most infamous bad mothers in the entire animal kingdom. For those birds, the stress of parenting is just too much to take on. So, to avoid all the hassle, they abandon their kids before they’re even born!

When she’s ready to lay an egg, a female cuckoo will swoop into the unattended nest of a smaller species. She will then swallow one of the eggs that have been laid there and lay one of her own in its place.

Cuckoos laying eggs on another birds nest

The behavior is known as brood parasitism, and it’s one seriously sneaky tactic. By leaving her egg in another bird's nest, momma cuckoo shifts the responsibility of raising her young to another unsuspecting mother and unburdens herself in the process, freeing herself up to go and live life as a single bird again!

Unfortunately for her victims, the cuckoo chick is hardly a welcome addition to any nest. In fact, the imposter chick usually hatches earlier and grows faster than the other bird’s real brood, forcing the smaller chicks out of the nest where they will likely die.

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Sometimes, the targeted birds revolt. The parents that inhabit the nest may mob the cuckoo mom to stop her from dropping off her egg. Alternatively, they might even push the cuckoo eggs out before they hatch or abandon the nest altogether. But more often than not the cuckoo mom gets away with her evil scheme undetected, leaving her victim with another big, greedy mouth to feed!

Burying Beetles

For such small critters, burying beetles have some fearsome mothering tactics. True to their name, those endangered black and orange insects bury the carcasses of small vertebrates such as birds and mice as a food source for their larvae. Once the larvae hatch inside their new, fleshy home, mom regurgitates the pre-digested meat to feed her kids.

 burying beetles regurgitates the pre-digested meat to feed her kids

But there’s one small problem: there’s rarely enough meat to go around. Whenever they’re hungry, burying beetle larvae pester for food by touching their parent’s mouths with their legs.

But there’s one crucial rule they have to remember: pester mommy too much and prepare the pay the ultimate price. The thing is, burying beetles occasionally punish young who nag for food by eating those who annoy them the most.

burying beetles occasionally punish their young who nag for food

According to research by Edinburgh University, this cutthroat parenting behavior encourages the larvae to plead more honestly according to how hungry they are, rather than trying to out-do their siblings by constantly pestering for more.

The threat of being eaten also allows the mother beetle to maintain some control over how she feeds her squabbling offspring. Like other mammals and birds, burying beetles seem to favor elder offspring because they are more likely to grow up and survive to procreate.


Sharks often get a bad reputation as nothing more than psychopathic, bloodthirsty killers and their parenting habits don’t do much to improve on it. In fact, shark moms are notoriously bad at parenting before they even give birth. The thing is, some sharks have live births with placentas, a bit like mammals.

But others have live babies without an organ to feed the developing fetuses. So how do they get their nutrients? By eating their own siblings, that’s how! Those sharklets start their life by waking up inside a tiny, pitch-black cave populated by their brothers and sisters that look just like them.

But little do they know that womb is about to become the next Hunger Games arena! There may be as many as 20 eggs starting out in two uteri, and each will hatch and live peacefully inside their mother; until they grow sharp jaws and feel their tiny bellies rumbling, that is.

Sharks will give birth to their babies after they grow sharp jaws

Of the 20 shark babies that hatch, only one from each uterus will survive to be born into the world, which probably explains why adult sharks have such a chip on their shoulder! It’s quite hard to imagine what it would feel like to have 20 sets of frenzied jaws snapping away inside you at once, but it’s safe to say it probably isn’t pleasant.

Tasmanian Devils

Your idea of Tasmanian devils is probably heavily influenced by the utterly badass Looney Tunes cartoon, but those carnivorous marsupials are even more hardcore in real life. For starters, they have the strongest mammalian bite in the world pound for pound.

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But there’s also the matter of how they raise their kids. To prepare them for a life as one of Earth’s most fearsome creatures, the first thing they experience when they open their eyes is a Thunderdome-style death match that fewer than one in ten will survive.

Momma Tasmanian devil will give birth to as many as 50 tiny babies, called "joeys", at once, but there’s one big problem: she only has four teats to go around. Unfortunately, the phrase “sharing is caring” means nothing to a Tasmanian devil. So, the rules are simple: whoever can make it to mommy’s feeding nozzles first and hold on tightly wins.

tasmanian devil joeys fight for milk

Only the strongest survive, while the remaining 46 pups starve to death before they even get a fair shot at life. It seems like there’s no logical reason why that happens. Instead, mother nature allows the Tasmanian devil to give birth to 50 pups and then lets 92% of them die right off the bat purely for the sake of teaching them that sharing is for losers.

Harp Seals

Baby harp seals are unbelievably cute. And you’ll be pleased to learn that harp seal moms love those fuzzy little pups just as much as you do, for a total of about 12 days, that is. During that period, harp seal moms feed their babies nonstop and don’t even take a break to fill their own bellies!

Because pups are born without any blubber, their mother’s milk is 50% fat, which allows the 20-pound newborns to pack on 5 pounds a day! But once that intense feeding period stops, so too does the mother-child bonding. After 12 days, the emaciated female harp seal decides it’s time to make a swift exit by leaving her baby to fend for themselves.

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But unlike other species with such abrupt weaning periods, the harp seal pups aren’t nearly prepared enough for life on their own. Instead, they are left stranded on the ice for the next month and a half with absolutely no food or protection. During that time, the pups will lose half of their body weight without any resources to replenish it.

Finally, when they’re about 8 weeks old, they’re able to swim and are ready to start hunting for their own food. But until that day comes, they must endure a dangerous period of potential starvation, being hunted by predators, or drowning amid the melting ice. All things considered, it’s no surprise that at least 30% of all harp seal pups die during their first year of life.

harp seals

Dracula Ants

The word Dracula alone should be enough to tell you that not much mother-baby bonding is going on there, but nothing can prepare you for the plight of the young Dracula ant. Although those tiny insects have the fastest animal jaws in all of nature, they ironically lack the ability to chew solid foods.

So, worker ants in the colony rely on another source for their nutrition instead: their own larvae. To get their fill, they will go and harvest the fattest larvae, tearing them open and drinking their blood, which they will later regurgitate for the queen! That bloodthirsty behavior is known as larval hemolymph feeding.

larval hemolymph feeding of Dracula ants

However, the ant’s brand of cannibalism is classed as “non-destructive”, meaning that, while the larvae do get partially eaten, they actually survive into adulthood. Some people say they’ve been left with emotional scars from their upbringing, but in the case of the Dracula ant, those scars manifest themselves in a much more permanent way!

Christmas Island Red Crab

Every year between October to December, 50 million Christmas Island red crabs migrate from their jungle homes out to the coast to spawn their eggs into the sea in a spectacular event. After the crabs mate the females lay about 100,000 eggs each!

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They can only spawn eggs once a month with the tides and a special phase of the moon. With such specific conditions required for their birth, you’d think the resulting babies would be totally sacred or something, but you’d be wrong!

The newly spawned baby crabs drift around out at sea for the first month of their life and, if they are lucky enough, the currents bring them back to Christmas Island. But if some of the spawning crabs decide to migrate late, aiming for the same tide a month later, a remarkably strange situation can occur.

Pregnant female crabs coming down to the coast to spawn at the same time as last month’s baby crabs can be met with a living red carpet coming back out of the water and heading back into the jungle. You might expect the pregnant ladies to stop and use their maternal instincts to help the newly hatched babies find their way home safely, but instead they do this:

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It’s not uncommon for expectant crabs to stop and feast on newly hatched babies if they fancy a snack. Worse still, mother crabs have also been known to eat their own young if they’re hungry enough.

A study conducted in 2007 even found that there was little difference between crabs that had not carried eggs, classed as “non-ovigerous” and “ovigerous” crabs who had recently carried eggs when it came to cannibalizing their own young.


If you thought those popular pets were nothing more than innocent little fluffballs then think again. Watching your female hamster coddle a litter of cute, little pink babies can be an exciting time, but don’t be surprised if you check the cage one day to find some, if not all of the babies missing.

Hamsters commit cannibalism

Where do they disappear to? Mommy hamsters stomach, that’s where! And not in a weird, reverse-pregnancy kind of way either; she literally eats them. It’s a horrifying thought, but hamsters are pretty well renowned for ingesting their own young.

There are mixed opinions about what might motivate them to commit such a heinous crime against hamster-kind. Some believe it’s because mother hamsters are malnourished after giving birth and need the extra nutrients.

Others theorize that the babies are eaten so the mom doesn’t have to care for such a large number of kids, considering each litter can contain up to 20 pups. Generally, if a hamster is overwhelmed by stress and feels that caring for its own young is more than it can handle then it may choose the easy way out and eat them instead.

Under stress Hamsters might choose to eat their offspring's

It seems like quite a leap, but who knows what goes on inside those tiny brains! If you’re a proud hamster owner and your female hamster gets pregnant, it’s important to try and maintain a calm and stress-free environment. Make sure she gets enough food too, so she doesn’t start looking at her own kids as a potential midnight snack!


This next fact will probably ruin the cutesy image you probably have of koalas. A newborn baby koala, called a “joey”, looks like a little pink jellybean. It’s totally hairless, blind, has no ears, and is no more than 2cm long.

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Relying on its sense of smell, touch, and strong forelimbs, the joey makes its way from the birth canal to the pouch completely unaided where it attaches itself to its mother's teat. The joey stays there for six to seven months until it develops ears and fur and opens its eyes.

But then, from around 22 weeks, baby koalas swap milk for a new food called pap, which essentially is poop. And not just any old poop, specially made, creamy, extra “wet” poop.

Baby Koala's eating their mothers pap

The specialized poop helps allows the mother to pass on microorganisms present in her own digestive system to her joey, which are essential to the digestion of eucalyptus leaves that will eventually become the main source of any koala’s diet.

At first, the baby leans out of the pouch opening on the mother’s abdomen to feed on the pap and then gradually emerges to lie on the mom’s belly to feed as it grows up. Once the joey is old enough to ride on its mother's back, it can finally graduate to eating fresh leaves.

Black Eagles

Any mother with more than one child knows just how draining it can be when siblings constantly squabble. Sometimes it’s best to let them wear each other out, but most moms know when it’s time to intervene and break things up. Unless you’re a black eagle, that is.

For those magnificent birds of prey, which soar over forests in the hilly regions of tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia and Southeastern China, “staying out of it” seems to be the way forward. In fact, if a fight breaks out in the nest between two chicks mom will usually just sit and watch it happen with front row seats!

Baby Eagle Attacks Sibling

Usually, the feathered fight only ends when the stronger, older chick ends up killing the younger sibling. The least you’d expect in that situation is for the eagle mom to scold her child for literally murdering its younger sibling, but no. In many cases, the mother and the surviving eaglet will then eat the remains of the slain young in celebration.

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Although hippos can be fearsome creatures, they’re actually pretty decent parents, most of the time. Female hippos, called “cows”, give birth once every two years, usually to a single calf.

Unsurprisingly, momma hippos are usually quite protective of their offspring, even though a hippo baby can swim right away and can weigh 55 to 120 pounds, which is about the weight of a large adult dog! Soon after the birth, the mother and her baby will join up with other cows and calves for protection against predators like crocodiles, lions, and hyenas.

But sometimes the real threat lies a little closer to home. Although shocking, there have been several recorded cases of dominant male bulls in the group attacking and killing younger male hippo calves which they deem to be a threat to their dominance. A breathtaking photograph captured by wildlife photographer Adrian Hirschi in 2019, shows the moment an aggressive bull seized a newborn hippo in its crushing jaws!

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Sometimes, several members of the pod will gang on a calf while the mother stands by with no choice but to watch the horror unfold. So far, research into why hippos sometimes turn on their own young shortly after being introduced to the pod is limited because those aggressive creatures are hard to study up close.

However, some theorize that male hippos are particularly aware of overpopulation and the pressure that is placed on the pod every dry season as the amount of water dwindles in the waterhole. Turns out the saying “one less mouth to feed” is taken pretty seriously by those semi-aquatic mammals!

Worst Animal Parents hippo


Female horses or mares have a gestation period of at least 340 days, which, to anyone who has ever been pregnant before, sounds like an awfully long time. You might expect a mare to take it easy until her precious calf finally arrives, but she actually passes the time in a very different way.

The moment a mare gets pregnant, she goes off and immediately engages in "frisky activity" with every stallion in the herd. It might not make much sense from an evolutionary perspective; after all, she is already pregnant.

But those frisky mares have an ulterior motive for all their fraternizing. The thing is, male horses are notoriously proud animals. They hate competition, so if they come across a foal that isn’t theirs, they usually kick it to death.

Stallions kick a baby horse to death

But they draw the line at killing their own kid, so they’re not total monsters. Therefore, the pregnant mare’s goal is to mate with every stallion in the herd so that it becomes impossible for him to determine if a foal is theirs or not, meaning they probably won’t kick it to death.

But those crafty mommas also have a backup plan if they can’t tick every male off their to-do list: they’ll just abort the pregnancy themselves. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how that happens, but it’s thought to be the result of a natural chemical process within the mare if she senses that the foal would be in danger from aggressive males fighting for dominance.

Stallions and foals

Fire Ants

If you thought the Dracula ants had a brutal start in life, just wait until you learn about fire ants. In fact, fire ants are lucky if they even make it to adulthood, if they’re born male, that is. Gender is quite a hot topic among that ant colony.

While female ants do all the work including hunting, foraging, and caring for their young, all male ants do is eat, mate, and poop. The only reason why the women keep them around is because they can’t reproduce without them.

But that presents a problem: having too many men around is a waste of resources and means there are only more lazy, good-for-nothing mouths to feed. To try and keep on top of things, worker drone ladies won’t hesitate to just kill any male ants they come across in sight. And that isn’t just a random thing either.

Female fire ants kill male ants on sight

The female worker ants will often embark on a systematic culling of all the males during the larval stage. But that puts the female ants at odds with the queen because the species would inevitably die out without any males around.

To try and maintain a good balance, the queen will overwhelm the colony with male eggs while the female workers go on their murderous rampage. Eventually, the women get tired and a few lucky males make it to adulthood!

Giant Pandas

Ever felt like your parents favored your sibling over you? Well, just be glad you weren’t born a giant panda! Those laid-back creatures are famed for their cutesy cuddliness, but they’re also some of the worst parents in the animal kingdom.

When they’re first born, panda cubs are pretty helpless: they’re blind, hairless, weigh between three to five ounces, and are about 1/900th the size of their mothers! Panda mommas often have twins, but there’s one small problem: they almost never care for more than one cub.

Newborn Panda Cubs

Instead, the mom will choose the weaker of the two siblings and will start ignoring him or her in favor of the stronger sibling. Of course, without its mom's love and protection, the weaker cub will almost certainly die. There are a couple of possible reasons why pandas adopt the whole “survival of the fittest” mindset.

Firstly, their diet. Since bamboo is notoriously low in nutrients, it’s nearly impossible for a mother to make enough milk to feed two cubs. Plus, panda moms must keep their babies tight to their own bodies to maintain their body warmth and must hold them close to their breasts to nurse.

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Because mom has to do basically everything for her baby, she simply doesn’t have the resources to split that attention both ways so, she makes the difficult decision to abandon one cub to increase the chances of the other’s survival. Thankfully, though, cubs abandoned in zoos are still cared for since zookeepers don’t have to worry about limited milk production.

panda parenting

Komodo Dragons

Komodo Dragons can reach up to 10 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds, making them the heaviest lizards on Earth! When a female is ready to mate, she gives off a scent in her poop for males to follow.

Female Komodo Dragons gives off a scent in her poop for males to follow

Once a male locates the female, he scratches her back and licks her body and if she licks him back, they mate. Pregnant females then lay about 30 eggs, which they bury in the earth until they hatch eight months later. While the eggs incubate in the nest, the female may lay on the nest to protect them.

But no evidence of parental care for newly hatched Komodos exists. The tiny hatchlings are particularly vulnerable during the early stages of their life. After they’re born, the babies often scramble to climb the nearest tree for safety. Only the strongest will make it, while the weakest often fall victim to predators, including other adult Komodo dragons!

Because Komodo dragons have both male and female sex chromosomes, females can reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis. But that process has one significant drawback: it only produces sons.

And because parthenogenesis isn’t Komodo’s preferred method of reproduction, if there are no breeding males around when a mother Komodo is in heat she will sometimes mate with her own children! These lizards must be carrying around some serious childhood trauma!

Female Komodo dragon's can commit incestuous deeds

If you were amazed at the worst parents in the animal kingdom, you might want to read about the best animal parents! Thanks for reading.

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