Prank: humans "on display" at zoo

 Humansa Wooster Collective spotted this fun prank at Bristol Zoo where an informational placard about Homo Sapiens was installed outside the zoo's cafe. Click the image to read the sign.
A New Species at Bristol Zoo (Thanks, Lindsay Tiemeyer!)

UPDATE: Of course, humans have previously been exhibited at zoos in decidedly not funny contexts.



  1. It would be lovely if this was an official act of good humor on the part of the zoo. I wonder who’s responsible.

  2. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium there is a similar notation for the models of scuba divers that are hanging next to the whale models.

    It tells how scuba divers are the least well adapted of marine mammals, and typically go ashore to mate and raise their young.

  3. I’m sure people will start referencing the many times this has been done in the past to verying degrees (including going so far as to install habitats and have artists live in them temporarily) but its a classic that I hope never dies and reinforces the very important point that we are just animals too

  4. My wife has a book on primates that features incredibly beautiful pictures. The last page lists homo sapiens and instead of a picture, there is a mylar mirror.

  5. I heard there was an incident where a door at the back of the habitat was left open, allowing the humans to come and go as they please.

  6. There’s a similar sign inside the reptile house at Zoo Atlanta, noting that humans are much more dangerous and scary than the snakes and turtles on exhibition inside.

  7. Chuck, strangely the humans didn’t seem to take advantage of the ability to leave and spend time outside. They’ve adapted remarkably well to their enclosures.

  8. For several years during the 70’s the primate house in the Birmingham Alabama zoo contained an employee break room/lounge with a “Homo Sapiens” sign. IIRC it had several chairs and a TV.

    Of course now in the South we know that we didn’t actually co-evolve with the great apes but are in fact God’s special creation. Sigh.

  9. At the San Diego Zoo, the tour guide would point out the “California Road Hog” as the bus passed a point that overlooked the freeway.

  10. A tropical bird sanctuary here has a sign for “the chameleon bird” outside an aviary. Of course the aviary is empty

  11. David Garnett’s 1924 novel A Man In the Zoo is actually built around this idea. It’s still a good read!

  12. I remember visiting the San Diego zoo in the mid to late 80’s and walking through an area of the park that bordered (outside the zoo fence) a middle school. A small sign along the path identified the school as a “Primate Learning Center”. Having only recently emerged from junior high school myself, I found this to be highly appropriate.

  13. Similar situations occured at the Worlds Fairs in Chicago (1893) and the Cotton Exposition in New Orleans (1884). Not a zoo, but people were on display at the fairs. Pygmies were included, as well as cultures from all over the world.

    Historians debate whether they came to the fairs of their own free will. “Collection parties” were sent out years in advance to bring back people and animals from all over the world to make up the exhibits at the fairs. After the fairs, neither the people or the animals had any way to get home. They were abandoned in both Chicago and New Orleans.

  14. The zoo in New Orleans has a similar plaque, or did when I was there c. 1990. There’s a big playground surrounded by food vendors and tables, and several plaques describing the behavior and habitat of human children.

  15. A nice display; however, unlike the other residents of the zoo, the humans can come and go as they please.

  16. While I obviously love zoos (I’ve been to over 210 worldwide) and I can appreciate good humor, I don’t like this idea at all. Of course, biologically, human beings are related to animals, but I’m not in favor of zoos equating humans with the animals on display. This is how we get the animal rights extremists claiming that zoos are “animal prisons”, when they are actually more like “animal resorts”. The extremists ask “How would you like to be locked up, with your freedom taken away?” Good question, except I reject their main premise — that animals are just like humans. They aren’t.

    Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America’s Best Zoos

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