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Organization That Runs Bronx Zoo Apologizes for Putting an African Man on Display in its Monkey House

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Back in 1906, the Bronx Zoo kept a man from Central Africa in its monkey house. The man was seen in a iron cage along side an orangutan while hundreds of people watched. After 114 years, the Bronx Zoo is just now apologizing.

What We Know:

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO, Cristián Samper, apologized stating that they “deeply regret that many generations and people have been hurt by these actions,” and for their failure to “previously condemn and denounce them”. They also emphasized that they recognize systemic and overt racism still persisting, and believe their institution should play a greater role in order to combat it.
  • Benga was from the Democratic Republic of Congo and he was imprisoned at the zoo while put on display for several days. He underwent very harsh conditions while trapped inside of an iron cage with a orangutan, and was only allowed to be outside for a small amount of time.
  • Eventually, Benga resisted and started to threaten attendants which ultimately led to his release. Reverend James Gordon took him to an orphanage he ran in Weeksville, Brooklyn. Benga was unable to return home and died by suicide ten years later.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society stated that they will make all of the information pertaining to Benga public in its mission to be more transparent. The company also noted that they will be hiring a diversity officer to to ensure that their organization will be working towards diversity.

“Today I challenge myself and my colleagues to do better,” Samper wrote, “and to never look away whenever and wherever injustice occurs”.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

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