The Human Zoo
Posted on September 7, 2005Clearly, the keepers at the London Zoo have run out of pandas: their latest popular exhibit is entitled "Humans" and features scantily-clad humans in an enclosure with a sign reading: "Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment." The humans on display wore bathing suits and fig leaves, while they played with hula hoops and waved at the bemused visitors.
Anyone who has seen the original Star Trek episode where Spock's former commander, Captain Pike, visits a planet called Talos IV that has its own human zoo is not going to find this exhibit quite so funny. Starfleet quarantined the planet because it was so dangerous to humans. Although, come to think of it, the Talosian Zoo actually came in pretty handy for Pike later on....Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?" London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that's exactly the question the zoo wants to answer. "Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said.
The exhibit puts the three male and five female "homo sapiens" amid their primate relatives. While their neighbors might enjoy bananas and a good scratch, these eight have divided interests, from a chemist hoping to raise awareness about apes to a self-described actor/model and fitness enthusiast.
For others, the aping around is just another forum for rampant exhibitionism and self-promotion. Pointing at one heavy muscled and gleaming body on the ledge, one visitor joked that the zoo should consider a breeding program.
"You can tell why some people came here, like the big muscly men who clearly like parading around in thongs," said Damien Largey, 23. Melissa Wecker, 21, was disappointed that the humans were wearing swimsuits beneath their fig leaves. "They're not doing anything. It looked lots better on the news," she complained.