This Silverback thinks this intruder in the mirror (his own reflection) comes to steal his wives
- Published on: Saturday, January 3, 2015
- (★) 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗽𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗠𝗨𝗦𝗧 𝗯𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘂𝗹𝗮𝗿 𝗯𝗲𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗼𝘂𝗿 (★) 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗵 / 𝗙𝗿𝗮𝗻ç𝗮𝗶𝘀
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.
Members of a gorilla family from this jungle come and go as they please in front of these mirrors. Just as in humans, self recognition in primates is not an innate ability. The ability to recognise 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:
The case of the babies, children, adolescents and mothers of this family:
In the mirror each of these gorillas sees the reflections of its family members by its side, but it is also faced with one gorilla it has never seen before: its own reflection. Each gorilla attempts to get to known this never before seen gorilla who copies its every movement. 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. When the gorilla tries to press its lips against the stranger or lick its face the result is the same, once again the gorilla encounters this cold, hard surface. Some of the gorillas reach behind the mirror in an attempt to touch the stranger without coming in contact with this flat surface. The mirror training progresses and some of the gorillas, upon seeing the image of a family member enter into the mirror turn around to verify that this family member is actually behind them. One young gorilla even uses the mirror to examine his anus, a part of his body that he is unable to see without the help of the mirror. If over time this sort of self examination continues and this young gorilla uses the mirror to explore other parts of his body such as the inside of his mouth we will then be sure that he has achieved the ability of self recognition in the mirror.
The case of the head of the family, the silverback:
As far as the silverback is concerned this intruder, (his own reflection), has come into his territory in order to steal his females (wives). Being a non violent primate this silverback does not wish to trigger a direct confrontation and therefore he avoids looking at this intruder directly in the eyes which is seen as an act of defiance between two silverbacks. He tries instead to frighten his rival by standing up on two legs to demonstrate the importance of his size as well as beating his chest with fists or with cupped hands or slapping the ground loudly and repeatedly in front of the mirror to show his force. Seeing as the silverback does not want to look at his reflection in the mirror (avoid looking at it), his mirror training could very well be compromised unless, one of his family members, upon finishing its own mirror training and achieving the ability to self recognise decides to help him. (Translation Robin Alcorn)
Anne-Marie et Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE et leur ami Michel GUISS DJOMOU ont monté des miroirs dans la forêt au Gabon. Pour filmer sous divers angles les réactions d’animaux sauvages face à leur reflet, ils ont installé devant eux des caméras à détecteur de mouvement.
Les membres d’une famille de gorilles de cette forêt se rendent à leur guise devant ces miroirs. Chez ces primates, tout comme chez les humains, la reconnaissance de soi dans un miroir n’est pas innée. Elle est le résultat d’un apprentissage qui peu à peu va leur permettre de comprendre les propriétés du miroir.
Face au miroir, chacun des bébés, enfants, et mères, reconnait dans les reflets des membres de sa famille, mais aussi celui d’un inconnu : leur propre reflet. Chacun tente de faire la connaissance avec cet inconnu reproduisant à l’identique ses propres mouvements. Quand il s’en approche, celui-ci s’approche aussi, quand il tente de le toucher, il fait de même mais ses doigts rencontrent non pas des doigts mais une surface plane et froide. L’apprentissage progressant, un jeune adolescent utilise même le miroir pour ausculter son anus, partie de son corps qu’il ne pourrait voir sans l’aide de cet objet. Si cette auscultation se répète dans le temps et que ce jeune utilise le miroir pour découvrir l’intérieur de sa bouche, on sera alors sûr qu’il aura atteint le stade de la reconnaissance de soi dans le miroir.
Le dos argenté pense que son propre reflet vient enlever ses femelles. Il évite de le regarder droit dans les yeux, signe de défiance chez les gorilles dos-argentés. Son apprentissage au miroir semble donc compromis.