The Emperor Penguin chick couldn’t make it up the icy ravine. The mother poked and prodded and cajoled, but too many times the fluffy baby just slid back down, defeated. Eventually the mother made a choice: she would not die with her offspring, but would press on alone.

We were watching an episode of David Attenborough’s series Dynasties on the BBC, and my children were transfixed. “Would you just leave me?” they asked, horrified at the prospect of freezing to death, abandoned by their mother. “Never!” I exclaimed. To leave your struggling baby seemed absolutely at odds with everything motherhood ...


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