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Watch Animals React When Photographer Places Mirror in Jungle

Wildlife responds with curiosity and hostility to seeing own reflections
Photo of a leopard looking at itself in a mirror

Seeing our own reflection in the mirror is something we, as humans, take for granted. And there are many of us humans who are endlessly fascinated by how we look in the mirror, aka narcissists (or Kardashians).

But how do animals react when seeing their own reflection? On a personal note, our cat could seem to care less when he slinks past a full-length mirror in our house. Animals in the wild, however, tend to behave a little differently as shown by an experiment from French photographer Xavier Hubert-Brierre.

Hubert-Brierre has been recording videos from a jungle in Gabon since 2012 where he sets up a large mirror in front of a hidden camera to capture animals’ reactions. You can see many of Hubert-Brierre’s videos on his YouTube channel but below is compilation of some of the highlights from StoryTrender.

As you’ll see, some of the animals, particularly the gorillas and chimpanzees, react with aggression, believing perhaps that a rival is intruding on their territory. (Though, as you’ll see in the video, the chimps’ hostility eventually turns to fascination.) Leopards and other great cats respond more with curiosity.

Elephants in the videos, however, seem more indifferent, perhaps displaying their capacity for self-recognition, which is a sign of intelligence. (It’s no coincidence that elephants are considered to be among the smartest animals on the planet, with problem-solving capabilities on the level of dolphins.)

All in all, it’s a fascinating and sometimes hilarious investigation by Hubert-Brierre. At the same time, we feel there’s something unethical about foisting this “mirror test” on animals who are just minding their own business in the wild. Check out the video below and let us know what you think in the comments.

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