July 15, 2007

Pygmies Belittled: “Exhibited” At Zoo

History has repeated itself. Hominids have diminished others hominids, once again.

Ota Benga

Ota Benga and a chimpanzee, Bronx Zoo, 1906.

“A hundred years ago, on September 8th, 1906, the Bronx Zoo in New York unveiled a new exhibit that would attract thousands of visitors to come and marvel. Inside a cage, in the monkey house, was a man. His name was Ota Benga. He was 22 years old, a member of the Batwa people, pygmies who lived in what was then, the Belgian Congo,” noted National Public Radio (NPR) last year.

Protests occurred, and the Bronx Zoo closed the exhibit. A ministers’ group “moved Ota Benga to the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn. He stayed there for a short time before being relocated to Lynchburg, Va., where various families housed him and tried to help him live a normal life. Ota Benga lived in Lynchburg until March 1916, when he borrowed a gun from one of his host families, went to the woods on the edge of the town, and shot himself.”

NPR ran a radio documentary about Ota Benga on September 8, 2006.

Now comes news from the Brazzaville Zoo that something similar has been happening over the last few days.

Congo authorities say a troupe of pygmy musicians made to live at the zoo while performing at a music festival in the country’s capital have been given accommodation in a local school.

The plight of the 22 pygmies, whose tents became an attraction for curious Brazzaville zoo visitors, provoked outrage among civil rights groups in Congo.

All the other musicians playing at the July 8-14 pan-African FESPAM festival were provided with hotel rooms.

The pygmies, from Congo’s north-east Likouala forest region, had been gathering wood daily in the zoo to prepare fires to cook their food, often with tourists snapping photos of them.

The Congo Government says it ordered the relocation of the pygmies late on Friday.

Organisers of the music festival, which ends later today, told Radio France International that as pygmies normally live in the forest, they had hoped to recreate their natural habitat by housing them in the zoo, which has wooded areas.

Pygmies frequently complain of being marginalised and treated with disrespect by governments in central Africa, while their jungle habitat is degraded and destroyed.

The term pygmy, introduced by European explorers, refers to various ethnic groups of central Africa whose adults are shorter than 1.5 metres.

They use the term themselves but many of them regard it as derogatory and point out there is scant evidence of linguistic or ethnic ties between the different groups.Reuters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Pygmies move from zoo after outcry,” July 14, 2007.

The 2007 group includes a three-month-old baby.

Why do humans in power treat other humans who happen to physically appear to be different than them, so inhumanely?

What if Bigfoot and their kin are discovered to be phenotypically varied hominids? How do you think humans will react and behave toward the first captive Sasquatch during that time it remains an unclassified species, or to a unknown hairy hominid, perhaps a Homo erectus?

Carter Family Drawing

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

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