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Pet Sins June 1999

Chinese sign in Thai zoo labels African as 'wild human'

I visited a zoo earlier this year as a first-time tourist in Southeast Asia. While I enjoyed my experience there, there was an exhibit that left me with a negative impression. If I recall correctly, the English caption displayed under the exhibit was "Kenya boy and lion". There was a young African man with a large feline in the glass enclosure.

Firstly, I question if it is necessary to put a human being on display as an exhibit. Secondly, the Chinese caption under the same exhibit was even more appalling: it read "Wild Human and Lion". Describing the African as "wild" can certainly be misunderstood as racist, so I wrote the zoo to express my concern.

The zoo wrote back to say that there was nothing racist about the exhibit: the exhibit title of "wild human and lion" was supposed to convey "the close relationship between man and nature", and the use of the African was because "[Thai] handlers were allergic to the lion".