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The last human zoo closed in 1958 in Brussels

Human zoo

History of Zoos: When People Were Part of the Exhibits

Zoos have always attracted people with their exotic animals and diverse landscapes, but few have considered that until the mid-20th century, they also included humans in their collections. Yes, you heard it right. The exhibition of human specimens in zoos was a practice that persisted for several centuries.

Exoticism on Two Legs

Humans began to appear in zoos as part of the exhibits in the 19th century. At that time, colonial powers such as Britain, France, and Germany were actively exploring distant corners of the world and returning with exotic animals as well as representatives of the peoples they encountered along the way.

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Exhibits and Spectators

People from various cultures and ethnicities were presented in zoos as “savages”, “Indians”, “Africans”, and so on. They were exhibited as exotic objects, attracting spectators with their novelty. Visitors could observe their daily lives, customs, and even purchase souvenirs related to these “curiosities”.

Shift in Perception and Practice Abolition

Over time, the perception of such practices began to change. In the 20th century, with the rise of human rights awareness and the struggle for civil rights, such exhibitions began to be perceived as offensive and degrading. Public pressure and legislative measures led to the complete abolition of the practice of displaying humans in zoos by the mid-20th century.

Modern Perspective

Today, zoos are places for conservation and education, where visitors can observe animals in their natural habitats and learn about the need to protect wildlife. However, the history of exhibiting humans in zoos reminds us of the norms that were considered acceptable in the past and how our understanding of morality and justice evolves over time.

Conclusion

The history of zoos until the mid-20th century included not only the display of exotic animals but also humans. Although this practice is unacceptable today, it serves as a reminder of the importance of ethical and moral norms in dealing with both animals and humans.

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