Mirror Enrichment for Topo

Mirror Enrichment for Topo

Did you know that chimpanzees have self-awareness? Though not as developed as it is in humans, chimpanzees have the cognitive ability to recognize themselves as individual beings. Humans develop self-awareness at about 18 months of age. We know this because it’s right around that time that babies can pass the mirror test. The mirror test is very simple: a dot of blush or paint is put on a baby’s nose and then the baby is placed in front of a mirror. If the baby reaches for the mirror, then it has not yet attained a sense of self; however, if the baby reaches up and touches its nose, it is clear that it was able to recognize itself in the mirror. Chimpanzees also pass the mirror test, so mirrors are an excellent form of enrichment that we use a lot at Chimps Inc.

Thiele looking at herself in a mirror.

Thiele is known for her long vanity sessions in front of mirrors, batting her eyelashes and touching different parts of her face while she gazes at her reflection. When Jackson looks in a mirror, he will tap his teeth and point out his nose and ears. However, this morning we saw Topo sitting inside, a mirror in his hand, staring intently at his face reflected in it. He held it close, staring deep into his eyes, and then pulled it farther back, opening his mouth and sticking out his tongue. I have never seen Topo play with a mirror before so it was exciting to see him investigate his reflection. Then, once he was finished looking at himself, he tilted the mirror this way and that, looking at the reflection of what was behind him. He very intently tilted it up and down, right and left, until he saw me behind him. Then he let out a happy grunt and turned to face me, a giant chimp smile on his face. No matter how stressful or busy or poopy a day is, it’s moments like this that make it all worth it. :)

For more information about self-awareness in chimpanzees, check out this article here!