Have you ever wondered about how animals in the wild would react to things that we humans see as totally normal? Take mirrors, for example. It’s fair to say that our pets might have one of two funny reactions to looking in the mirror, but as domesticated animals, they soon get used to seeing their reflection.
But for wild animals who have no idea what they look like, a glance into the mirror would be like staring into the eyes of a stranger, and we all know that an encounter with strangers doesn’t always end well in the wild.
So when a group of French photographers decided to install some mirrors accompanied by hidden cameras in an area that was known to be populated by a number of Silverback gorillas, we knew that the results were going to be hilarious.
The hidden footage was compiled together into a YouTube video and posted by Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE, and it now has over 23 million views and 89k likes as people couldn’t stop laughing at the confused gorilla. In the caption, Xavier explains how the experiment first began, saying:
“In Gabon, French photographers Anne-Marie, Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE and their friend Michel GUISS DJOMOU installed six large mirrors (1,2 m x 2,5 m) in the jungle near Nyonié. In order to film the reaction of wild animals from different angles as they encounter their reflection, the group also installed cameras equipped with motion detectors in front of each mirror.”
In no time at all, the gorillas began to pass by in front of the mirrors.
Interestingly, although looking in the mirror is a perfectly normal practice for us humans, recognizing our reflection is actually something that we learned to do overtime. Xavier said:
“Just as in humans, self recognition in primates is not an innate ability. The ability to recognize one’s own reflection is the result of a training process that little by little allows the human, or primate to understand the mirror’s properties.”
We can see just how baffled one of these gorillas is as he approaches his reflection in the mirror. He is the head of the family, so he has an important role in protecting the others – so when he sees what appears to be a stranger approaching him, he just doesn’t know how to react!
“In the mirror each of these gorillas see the reflections of their family members by their side, but they are also faced with one gorilla they have never seen before: their own reflection. Each gorilla attempts to get to known this never before seen gorilla who copies its every movement.”
Xavier also said:
“As the gorilla approches the stranger, the stranger approches as well, when the gorilla tries to touch this newcomer, the newcomer also reaches out its hand but its fingers are met with a cold, flat surface rather than the warm touch the gorilla was expecting… Some of the gorillas reach behind the mirror in an attempt to touch the stranger without coming in contact with this flat surface.”
Xavier goes on to say that hilariously, the poor Silverback believes that the gorilla in the mirror has come into his territory in order to steal his wives.
As Silverbacks aren’t normally aggressive, the gentle giant avoids looking at this intruder directly in the eyes to avoid any confrontation. Instead, he attempts to frighten his rival by standing up on two legs, beating his chest, and slapping the ground loudly to show his force.
We can see that in the video as the hilarious gorilla repeatedly slaps the ground in front of the mirror before running off – all the while being sure to never give himself any eye contact!
As well as being hilariously entertaining, we think that this experiment was fascinating – and it’s taught us a lot about gorillas!
We’re so glad that Xavier and his team decided to share this awesome video with us, and if you’re interested, you can watch it for yourself below.
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Source: Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE