As these wild animals in Africa prove that some days it can be awfully difficult to take a good hard look in the mirror.
In this video, French photographer Xavier Hubert Brierre conducted an informal experiment to see how wildlife in Gabon react to their own reflections.
Brierre and his wife installed a massive mirror in several forested locations, and set up a camera to capture passing wildlife that confronted themselves in the shiny surface.
The responses range from calm curiosity to outright hostility. A leopard paws against the glass and licks its mirrored face. An elephant seems to care little for its own appearance. A burly silverback gorilla violenty charges his reflection, then scampers off into the forest in a rage.
Other primates, including chimpanzees, react with a similar distaste at first, indicating they either think they’re seeing a challenger, or they are having a serious overreaction to a bad hair day. But eventually they settle down, using the mirror to get a good look at scratching and preening themselves. More proof that we’re not so different from our ape cousins.
In between takes, Brierre takes a moment to clear the mirror of the various smudges and scratches inflicted on the glass by a myriad of dirty fingers, paws, and talons, as well as the leftovers of bugs that collided with the mirror.
Only a few animals, including dolphins, magpies, and elephants, have been shown to recognize their reflection. Like humans, they can use their reflection to identify features on their own bodies they’d otherwise be unable to see. The mirror test is generally considered to be proof of high intelligence and self-awareness by many animal behaviorists.
Looking at this video, it’s easy to laugh at animals who mistake their reflections as an unfamiliar creature. Then again, upon self-reflection, plenty of us humans have to admit that we too have sometimes looked in the mirror and hardly recognized the face looking back.