Mark A Fernley

Wildlife Photographer

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Mirror Image Stimulation Study (M.I.S.S)

Mark Fernley, director of the Mirror Image Stimulation Study had the idea of putting large mirrors in the Rainforest in hopes in learning something every specific about particular species in the lowland Peruvian Amazon.  There have been plenty of studies to prove or disprove self recognition of specific animals around the world including gorillas, chimpanzees, dolphins, and many more, but this study is far different. Fernley is not looking at self recognition here, rather competitive recognition. The  idea behind the project is to understand how a solitary Neotropical Big Cats react when they come in contact with that they believe is a competitive cat in their territory. By strategically setting up 120cm x 120cm secured mirrors in combination with amazing quality 4k video camera traps, Fernley has been able to study and document the incredible reactions of the Neotropical Cats in the Madre de Dios region of Peru including the following: Pumas (Puma concolor), Jaguars (Panthera onca), Ocelots (Leopardus Pardalis), and Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

Below are some videos that will give you a better understanding of just how incredible these animals are.

Male Jaguar (Pantera Onca) approaches a mirror for the first time and the results are amazing. Mirror Image Stimulation Study and the competetive recognition behaviors of Neotropical Big Cats

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

Here Mark Fernley captured a stunning male Jaguar during the day that lingered around the mirror and returned many times in other days. Mark states “We clearly see from his scrape markings around the mirror, his vocalizations and his frequent returning to the so-called opposition in the mirror that this individual sees his reflection as a competitive recognition and not self-recognition. Mark Fernley continues this study to inspect when one solitary cat meets another. “As the rainforest decreases in size the territories of these individuals may cause solitary cats to clash with one another” states Mark.  

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Our newest and most rewarding video footage yet! After working on this project for over two years now, we have never seen a reaction like this one here! Multiple Ocelots in this area and surround areas in the region have come across our mirrors and until now, we thought we were getting somewhere with this project. Until now, we were coming to the conclusion that the smaller the species of cat, the less likely the are to approach the "competitor". After all of this time, this beautiful male ocelot has proved us wrong! He is the first of this species to stand his ground to his competitor! We are learning more and more about these cats as the months go on!

Beautiful female Jaguar (Pantera Onca) approaches a mirror for the first time and the results are amazing. Mirror Image Stimulation Study and the competetive recognition behaviors of Neotropical Big Cats

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

This beautiful female Jaguar has only come in contact with our mirror this one time, but wow, the footage is amazing. Initially, this Jaguar was shocked to come across another cat in the area, but she quickly realized there was not threat from her opposition. Once she realized that there was nothing to fear, she proceeded to lay in front of the mirror, rolling to her back as if she is completely comfortable in her environment. We have noticed that other Jaguars have seemed to react in very similar ways. Male Jaguars come to the mirror night after night to non-aggressively approach their competitor. 

Large male Puma (Puma colcolor) Approaches the mirror for the first time and spends time with his competitor! Mirror Image Stimulation Study and the Competetive Recognition of Neotropical Big Cats

Puma (Puma concolor)

Here located at the Las Piedras Amazon Center, Mark Fernley captures a stunning reaction from a large male Puma at mirror 14. This was truly the most aggressive for the Mirror Image Stimulation Study here in the lowlands of the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. To back up our theory, big solitary cats such as this puma here only sees his reflection as an opposed competitor, or another puma in the mirror. This is only visual as the mirror does not give off smell that other individuals will do in reality.

Large male Puma (Puma colcolor) Approaches the mirror for the first time and spends time with his competitor! Mirror Image Stimulation Study and the Competetive Recognition of Neotropical Big Cats

Puma (Puma concolor)

The Infamous Puma! This is one of the first Pumas to be caught on camera with our Mirror Image Stimulation Study! The results: Breathtaking! This large male Puma stayed with the mirror for about an hour and a half. Watching the video, you may notice that this is a very intelligent cat. He realizes that the "competitor" is not harming him and he manages to look behind the mirror for this other puma. This initially brought us to the idea that the larger the cat species, the more intellectual they may be.

Mark A Fernley

British Wildlife Photographer

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