US Wildlife Conservation Society Apologises For Displaying African In A Monkey Cage In New York Zoo
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has issued an open apology for the imprisonment and display of Ota Benga at the Bronx Zoo in 1906.
Benga, who was from the Mbuti people of the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, was put on display at the zoo’s Monkey House starting on September 8th, 1906, according to the statement from the society
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114 years later, the President and CEO of WCS Cristián Samper has written:
“We deeply regret that many people and generations have been hurt by these actions or by our failure previously to publicly condemn and denounce them,
“We recognize that overt and systemic racism persists, and our institution must play a greater role to confront it.”
Benga was released after local Black ministers expressed their outrage and demanded his freedom. While imprisoned at the Zoo, Benga underwent inhumane conditions including being trapped inside an iron cage with an orangutan. He would only have short periods outside.
After a week, Benga started to resist and threaten attendants, which contributed to his release. When he was finally freed, Reverend James Gordon took him in at an orphanage he ran in Weeksville, Brooklyn, according to WCS. However, Benga has been so traumatized and longed for Africa so much that he eventually committed suicide.
Samper concluded by saying:
“Today I challenge myself and my colleagues to do better and to never look away whenever and wherever injustice occurs.”
And to that we say Amen.