Module 1: FAMILY

(Page 4) Resource sheet 1

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The term 'imprinting' is used to describe the bonding of animals to a member of their family. This may be the mother to a youngster or a young animal to its parent.

In some birds imprinting is a matter of life and death because, for example with ducks and geese, the young have to be led to food. If they stray, they stand much more chance of being killed by a predator. In young ducklings, the first moving thing seen is followed. This is normally the parent, but ducklings have been known to become imprinted to toys, boxes with ticking things inside, and even to human beings. No matter to what a bird becomes 'imprinted', the attachment lasts for a long time. This is not found in young birds whose food is brought to them in the nest.

mammals - goats
Careful studies of maternal imprinting in goats have been carried out by P.H. and M.S. Klopfer of Duke University, U.S.A. It was found that contact with the young (kid) directly after birth is essential for the mother (the doe) to show normal maternal care. If this contact is denied the doe will reject her kid, even if it is returned to her after only an hour's separation. However if the doe is allowed to be with her kid first and then separated for an hour or more, she re-accepts it but will not accept a kid which is not her own.


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