Gorilla-viewing glasses prevent eye-contact

The Rotterdam Zoo is giving away cardboard glasses that make it appear that you're looking off to one side; these are gorilla-viewing glasses, meant to avoid incidents in which gorillas attack visitors for making eye contact with them. The glasses' introduction follows an attack on a woman by an escaped gorilla; the specs are sponsored by a local health-insurance company.

No Eye-Contact Glasses (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. These are incredible. I hope they introduce these to every zoo because I really want some.

    By the way, Corey Doctorow, I’m shocked to find an error in your grammar (unless it’s a typo).

    “The glasses’ introduction follow an attack…”

  2. I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you? I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you? I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you? I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you? I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you? I’m not looking at you, is this bothering you?

  3. if i have an encounter with a escaped gorila on a zoo i dont think that a “viewing away glasses” could help me that much :S

    is not that like the gorila is thinking “if he sees me im going to fucking punch him”

  4. No one’s explained the evolutionary origin of gorillas considering eye contact a predatory threat. Can someone tell me how the fuck these primates evolved into Frank Booth from *Blue Velvet*?

  5. The woman who was attacked in Rotterdam Zoo was somewhat of a nutcase who felt attracted by a mature male silverback, and went to the zoo almost every day to stare in his eyes. Then one day he snapped.

  6. I want some of these so badly! Gimme gimme gimme… where do I order them? No, I won’t be visiting Rotterdam any time soon…

  7. @7 If I’m remembering right, it’s not so much that eye-contact is a predatory thing, but a challenge for dominance, particularly if you bare your teeth while you do it. Say perhaps you look at a gorilla and smile. Here’s his thought process.
    “Murr, skinny white ape. He looking at me. I big boss here. I twist him into ball of jungle vines and pain and give him to Lola as toy”.

  8. Do want, and want badly! Like Javaxman @ 11, does anyone know where to get these in the States?

  9. Of course, if you have your head tilted down and angled just right while rummaging in your backpack, you might find the specs are inadvertently staring at the angry gorilla by themselves – with the extra hassle that you won’t be able to see him coming.

  10. I’m confused as to how exactly the gorillas were attacking people for looking at them. Surely they’re separated by a moat or fence? The crowd’s not walking among the gorillas, are they? What kind of “attacks” are we talking about here? Flinging poo?

  11. If the picture used on the specs is that of the lady who was attacked, I think she should pluck more often.

  12. Sorry, Gruppler, but he was correct with his grammar.
    “The glasses’ introduction follows an attack”
    He’s not saying “the glasses’ follow”, he’s saying “the introduction follows”. The introduction simply belongs to the glasses.

  13. #21: Interesting question, worth trying. Depends on whether the gorilla’s objection is to being stared at (which bothers most animals, including humans) or to the other not looking away… and whether they think of the glasses as eyes (like the old taunt of “four-eyes”). (How much is thought vs instinctive reaction isn’t a sharp line. And again, that’s true for humans too.)

    I suspect it was simply easier to talk zoo-goers into wearing silly glasses than sunglasses.

    I do like the idea, though. Zoos have started putting up warning signs asking folks to not stare at the apes, for the animals’ comfort as much as anything else; the glasses/mask approach is probably more effective than trying to train homo saps to avoid maintaining eye contact.

  14. That’s the same reason I always wear my “giant broccoli man” disguise when I visit the carnivore exhibits.

  15. This reminds me of (if I remember correctly) man-eating tiger hunters from a country I can’t recollect. Anyway, they wore masks, with a human face, on the back of their heads, to discourage a tiger attack from behind.

  16. According to the tour guide at the LA Zoo, Gorillas sometimes “attack” people who stare at them by pelting them with organic matter they make themselves.

    Sometimes they’ll charge at people – even if they can’t get to the people, it’s scary and there’s a possibility that the gorilla could injure itself.

    Also, it’s bad enough that the animals get stared at by a zillion people every day, without them being under constant irritation caused by their natural reaction to direct eye contact.

  17. @ Rob Cruickshank #43:

    Since you’ve seen them in person maybe you can answer a question that has been bugging me for years: how the hell does a wet snow monkey leave the hot springs without freezing to death?

    I’ve enjoyed outdoor hot tubs in cold weather, but I needs me a towel and a heated room as soon as I get out.

  18. Nature of fur

    Fur usually consists of two main layers:

    * Ground hair or underfur or down hair — the bottom layer consisting of wool hairs which tend to be shorter, flattened, curly, and denser than the top layer. Its principal function is thermal insulation and thus thermoregulation.
    * Guard hair — the top layer consisting of longer, often coarser, straight shafts of hair that stick out through the underfur. This is usually the visible layer for most mammals and contains most of the pigmentation. It protects the underfur from outside factors, such as rain, and is thus often water-repellent.

    A third layer, the awn hair, may also exist. It is intermediate between the two others.

  19. There’s a therapeutic angle to this. Isn’t there a mental disorder that makes some people especially sensitive to eye contact? With a pair of augmented reality glasses (and a lot of computational horsepower) the gaze of others can be “averted” for the sufferer.
    (meanwhile, my own pair of augmented reality glasses will be turning everyone’s eyes into big anime eyes)

    Tekna2007 at #19 wins this thread, IMHO.

  20. Thanks everyone for the laughs. I couldn’t stop. Rated in order of hilarity.


  21. Somebody fire up Photoshop and put the glasses on a gorilla! Yeah you know it’s gotta be done XD

  22. Imagine, all glasses who look to the left are out and one guy gets the eyes-wide-open-straight-looking-at-you-version.

  23. A direct stare is considered hostile and threatening to most animals.

    These glasses are a great idea and should be required for viewing other animals at zoos as well, such as tigers and other big cats.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if zoos with this policy didn’t see an increase in successful breeding rates (less stress on the animals), but in any case, surely the animals would be happier and that’s reason enough.

  24. @45: As takuan points out, the monkeys do have (kinda greasy) fur- which no doubt helps, but yeah, it was reasonably cold out, about 0 C, and we couldn’t figure out how they managed to stay warm. They did fight over a big concrete slab that was heated by the water, but it would only hold one monkey.

    @44 i would link to them, but they exist only as tranparencies, I haven’t scanned them. I do remember another stero photographer who had some very nice images of them on the web, I’ll see if I can find them.

  25. poor gorillas are going to keep looking over their shoulders to see what all those people are staring at all the time.

  26. Reminds me of an episode of the simpsons. Homer is in court and has glasses like these on and he is sleeping behind them. I can’t remember what episode it was

  27. “if i have an encounter with a escaped gorila on a zoo i dont think that a “viewing away glasses” could help me that much :S

    is not that like the gorila is thinking “if he sees me im going to fucking punch him”

    This is exactly what happened actually! The gorilla escaped and looked for the woman who stared at him through the glass every day, when he found her he dragged her all over the zoo. Just look up Blijdorp zoo and Bokito.

  28. Every guy who has been caught looking at a womans cleavage needs these… and yet I can’t find them buy anywhere!

  29. These would be great for public transport. No more staring at the wall to avoid awkward eye contact with the person sitting opposite.

  30. Chuck Norris once looked at a troup of 20 gorillas right in the eye SIMULTANOUSLY

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