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Adopted orphan animals in the wild

Animals in the wild sometimes lose one or both parents. In such a situation, it’s often unlikely that they will survive. Most will starve to death. The small number of orphans who survive may undergo terrible hardships.

Due to evolutionary reasons, most young animals die shortly after coming into existence. It’s very difficult for very young animals to survive. Most of the newborn animals receive no parental care, which increases their risk of dying. But those who do receive parental care may be so dependent on it that losing it means almost certain death.

Moreover, many nonhuman animals have strong emotional bonds with their families, and they miss their parents and feel grief when they die. Social animals who are orphans can also suffer from loneliness because they are deprived of social interaction. Fortunately, humans can assist them, by rescuing them and providing them with the care they need, though this seldom happens. It is only common to rescue orphans who belong to species at risk of extinction, out of conservationist motivations. Of course this benefits the animals who are helped. However, helping orphaned animals should be done for the sake of the animals themselves irrespective of how many other individuals happen to belong to the same species. Some examples of orphanages and of ways to help orphaned animals can be seen here:

Blind baby rhino rescued by wildlife wardens after he is seen bumping into trees and rocks in the wild

Baby red squirrel rescued after mother hit by car

Baby seal walks mile to animal shelter

Baby seal walks several kilometres

Gorilla orphans


A look inside the orangutan orphanage

Abandoned deaf pygmy marmoset adopted by sanctuary

Family adopts raccoon

Family adopts baby crow

South Africa opens rhino orphanage

The David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust

Jumbo Foundation Elephant orphanage

Further readings

Bovenkerk, B.; Stafleu, F.; Tramper, R.; Vorstenbosch, J. & Brom, F. W. A. (2003) “To act or not to act? Sheltering animals from the wild: A pluralistic account of a conflict between animal and environmental ethics”, Ethics, Place and Environment, 6, pp. 13-26.

Faria, C. & Paez, E. (2015) “Animals in need: The problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 7-13 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Dawkins, R. (1995) “God’s utility function”, Scientific American, 274 (6), pp. 80-85.

Donaldson, S. & Kymlicka, W. (2011) Zoopolis: A political theory of animal rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dorado, D. (2015) “Ethical interventions in the wild: An annotated bibliography”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 219-238 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Hadley, J. (2006) “The duty to aid nonhuman animals in dire need”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 23, 445-451.

Horta, O. (2013) “Zoopolis, intervention, and the state or nature”, Law, Ethics and Philosophy, 1, pp. 113-25 [accessed on 21 January 2016].

Horta, O. (2015) “The problem of evil in nature: Evolutionary bases of the prevalence of disvalue”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 17-32 [accessed on 14 October 2015].

Kirkwood, J. K. & Sainsbury, A. W. (1996) “Ethics of interventions for the welfare of free-living wild animals”, Animal Welfare, 5, pp. 235-243.

Kirkwood, J. K.; Sainsbury, A. W. & Bennett, P.M. (1994) “The welfare of free-living wild animals: Methods of assessment”, Animal Welfare, 3, pp. 257-273.

Morris, Michael C. & Thornhill, R. H. (2006) “Animal liberationist responses to non-anthropogenic animal suffering”, Worldviews, 10, 355-379.

Ng, Y.-K. (1995) “Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering”, Biology and Philosophy, 10, pp. 255-285.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2006) Frontiers of justice: Disability, nationality, species membership, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Paez, E. (2015) “Refusing help and inflicting harm: A critique of the environmentalist view”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 165-178 [accessed on 10 November 2015].

Tomasik, B. (2013) “Ideas for volunteering to reduce wild-animal suffering”, Essays on Reducing Suffering [accessed on 19 December 2015].

Tomasik, B. (2015) “The importance of wild animal suffering”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 133-152 [accessed on 20 November 2015].

Torres, M. (2015) “The case for intervention in nature on behalf of animals: A critical review of the main arguments against intervention”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 33-49 [accessed on 11 December 2015].

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