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People Zoo

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Pictured: the "Delightfully Charming Children" exhibit.

So if you come visit, just howl, honk, or moo
And try to pretend you're an animal, too.
'Cause if you're a person, they'll throw you into
Cage Two of the zoo here in Animaloo.
Shel Silverstein, "The People Zoo"

Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a zoo created by some alien race, animal or just a plain crazy person that puts live specimens of humans or other intelligent life on display. This is one of the more likely places you'll go if the Egomaniac Hunter doesn't kill you after Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.

Could be called the slightly more civil version of People Farms. Super-Trope of Human Pet. If it's humans exhibiting unusual specimens of their own species, then that's The Freakshow (though the "exhibits" in a circus sideshow may in fact be there of their own volition, simply because it's the only way they can make a living among All of the Other Reindeer). See also Living Museum Exhibit.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Gantz, four-eyed alien giants kidnap several humans, stripping them of their clothes and displaying them in a zoo.
  • A variant where the "zoo specimen" does it to themselves is found in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. Toyohiro Kanedaichi is trapped in the Possessive Paradise of an old telephone tower on the edge of Morioh, due to its Stand, Superfly, really hating it when people try to leave. After his chapter's over, it's revealed the tower has become a tourist attraction, where people come and take pictures with Toyohiro. He doesn't charge money, instead asking for such things as sweets and spices (he can acquire food and water by himself, but he can't get those inside the tower).
  • In TerraforMARS, the cockroach Terraformars kidnap thousands of humans within Tokyo. They're taken to a facility where the Terraformars and, with the aid of the Chinese People's republic and the Newton Clan, conduct breeding experiments on humans to create a Terraformar/human hybrid.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: The aliens in episode 4 capture Big M. and Little M., intending to put them on display like zoo animals.

    Comic Books 
  • In La Débauche, an unemployed man puts himself in a cage of a zoo. His reason for doing this are not known before his death.
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe story "The Billion Dollar Safari", Scrooge McDuck tries to revitalize the trade at his zoo by posting a reward of $1 billion for a nonexistent animal (a spotted elephant with a square trunk). The public is so eager to see the "crackpot" that would post such a ridiculous sum for such a ridiculous animal that they flock to the zoo to look at Scrooge, who puts himself on display in his own cage.
  • Marvel Universe: The Collector often captures intelligent beings to keep caged in his rambling "collection".
  • The Punisher: One story had Kraven the Hunter II create a zoo of animal-themed supervillains, like the Rhino and Vulture.
  • Sillage: At the end of the first issue, Navis is taken to a spaceship and put in a glass dome with her native jungle environment, while stared at by aliens on the other side of the glass. Later, after the aliens decide she is sapient, they let her out, educate her, and induct her as a citizen.
  • Strange Adventures: In "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land", intelligent gorilla-like alien put human beings on display in a pet store.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Star Wars Rebels fanfic Patron of the Art of War, the art exhibition that Thrawn puts on for his artists not only features Sabine's art but the girl herself. Cuffed and later gagged so the attendees can gawk at her.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Can of Worms: An alien species hunts and puts on display one of every intelligent species. Ironically enough, they are not allowed to capture unintelligent species due to an intergalactic law.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the Collector's museum contains a large number of humanoids trapped inside glass cages, including a Chitauri, a Frost Giant and a Dark Elf, in addition to a former assistant that he thought did a disappointing job and Howard the Duck.
  • Mars Attacks!: The Martians include a man in a clown costume (apparently they believe that clowns are animals) among the numerous specimens they have collected from Earth. They also capture a female newscaster and graft her head onto the body of her dog.
  • Mary Poppins: A deleted song focuses on a "Chimpanzoo" where humans are caged for animals to gawk at.
  • Planet of the Apes:
    • This is a signature trope of many movies, including the original film and the CGI reboot series.
    • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, after liberating and mutating the inhabitants of an ape sanctuary with an intelligence-boosting virus, Caesar locks up Rodney, a human guard, in one of the cages.
    • In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Koba built one to carry out vengeance against humans for his own time as a prisoner of their scientific experimentation which involved the excision of his eye and many scars on his face and arms.
      Koba: HUMANS! You ape prisoner now! You will know life in cage!
  • The twist ending of the Tales from the Hood 3 segment "The Bunker" reveals that the racist Denton Wilbury is actually a zoo exhibit, in a future where bigotry has been eliminated and people like him are considered an Endangered Species. One of the kids viewing his exhibit ends up asking if there's time to go see "the misogynist exhibit", implying he's not the only one there.

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Tributes for the 10th Hunger Games are stuffed in a cargo car and then deposited in cages at the disused Capitol Zoo, which once teemed with exotic animals, but fell into disuse following the war. This practice falls by the wayside as the Games are transformed into more of a spectacle for later editions.
  • Boy's Life: In "The Day We Explored the Future", a pair of Boy Scouts goes forward in time and is captured by a group of Future Boy Scouts. Their Scoutmaster plans to have them put in a "vivarium".
  • In "Breeds There a Man...?", Earth is implied to be a laboratory experiment by aliens, with mental controls in place to prevent us from developing interstellar travel. Then humans evolve around the mental blocks...
  • The Cage: A group of shipwrecked humans are captured and put in a zoo, having failed to convince their captors that they are intelligent beings. They eventually become resigned to their captivity and adopt a local rodent as a pet, putting it in a wicker cage. Seeing this, the aliens realise the humans must be intelligent after all and release them, as "only intelligent creatures put other creatures in cages".
  • Falling Up: Page 80 tells about a human boy who is kidnapped and put into a zoo exhibit. He is always on display and all of the onlookers are animals.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Early on, Harry has a nightmare where he's displayed in one, with a table on his cage saying "UNDERAGE WIZARD".
  • The Jupiter Theft: The Cygnans have zoos in the Generation Ships where they keep creatures from the various solar systems they have visited, and make little distinction between animals and sapients. The crew of a human space mission sent to contact them is quickly placed in one, alongside a group of birdlike pink humanoids and the last Jovians left after the Cygnans turned Jupiter into a fuel source.
  • L. Frank Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. In chapter 12 Prince Zingle travels to the Land of the Civilized Monkeys and is captured by them (they consider him to be a dangerous animal) and put in a zoo. He eventually escapes and returns to Mo.
  • Planet of Adventure. The underground-dwelling Pnume regard the various alien races who have invaded their planet over the centuries as just an elaborate pageantry for their entertainment. In the final novel the hero gains their interest and they kidnap him for their museum.
  • Planet of the Apes has a zoo with a display of people "in their natural habitat". The scientist of the group from Earth is in this display, and has regressed by the time we see him. He had brain damage, and the apes had given him a lobotomy to save his life, not realizing that he had cognitive functions that would be damaged by such a crude operation.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five: The main character gets put into one of these (together with a porn star) by the Tralfamadorians.
  • One ending in the second Give Yourself Goosebumps book Tick Tock, You're Dead! gets you stuck in one as the "Couch Potato" exhibit.
  • The Tripods: While discussing the Master's plan to terraform the Earth for their own use, a process that will Kill All Humans, Will's Master mentions that he favors preserving some of the humans and native animals in their own domed environment so the Masters can appreciate them. Later when the Masters are driven off the planet, the Sole Survivor is kept in his own zoo like this, so previously Capped humans can see How the Mighty Have Fallen. Although he's not mistreated, Will can't help feeling sorry for him. When a Master spacecraft arrives in orbit, nukes the domed cities they once occupied to prevent the humans gaining their technology, and then leaves abandoning their plan to conquer the Earth, the captive Master senses this and has a Death by Despair.
  • In the short story "Zoo" by Edward D. Hoch, a spaceship carrying a traveling zoo of aliens lands on Earth as part of its regular stint. Later the aliens are returned to their own planet, where they talk of their safari to see the savage two-legged creatures of Earth. They assure their friends they were perfectly safe, as they were behind protective bars the whole time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In "The Tale of the Closet Keepers", some aliens use closets as portals capture kids to put in a zoo.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Steven, one of the First Doctor's companions, is kept in one for two years by robots called Mechanoids. In "The Chase", the Doctor breaks him out while trying to fight off a crew of Daleks out to kill him and he stows away on the TARDIS soon after. Being kept in isolation for two years has led to him having No Social Skills, leading to the Doctor finding him a bit abrasive.
    • In the Third Doctor story "Carnival of Monsters", two alien entertainers keep exhibits of exotic creatures from many worlds - including a yacht full of humans - in shrunken and unwitting captivity inside a Miniscope.
  • Lost in Space:
    • In "The Keeper", the crew of the Jupiter II encounter The Keeper: an alien who travels the galaxy collecting living pairs of interesting or rare animals. His courtly overtures towards the Robinsons belie his true intention — to add a pair of humans to his incredible menagerie.
    • In "A Day at the Zoo", galactic showman Farnum B. wants to exhibit the Robinsons in his zoo.
  • Odyssey 5: A prison is secretly run by an Artificial Intelligence to study human behavior and aggression.
  • The Office (US): One of the last episodes has Kevin mention that he always assumed that the reason the documentary crew followed them around was because he and his coworkers were in some kind of human zoo.
  • The Orville: The Calivon keep members of less technologically advanced species in a zoo on their planet, since they consider them to be like animals. Mercer and Grayson become their latest exhibit.
  • Person of Interest: Team Machine discovers a Town with a Dark Secret in "M.I.A.". Maple was on the verge of bankruptcy when Artificial Intelligence Samaritan bought up the place and put its own unquestioning stooges in positions of authority. Now things are starting to go wrong, and Finch speculates that Samaritan had created a perfect 'ant farm' for humans, which it is now disrupting in order to learn more about their behavior. There's also a prison in South Africa that Samaritan is using for the same purpose.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Holoship", a hologram observer notes that he would recommend Last of His Kind human Lister for a zoo exhibit, if he weren't so unnecessarily ugly.
  • So Weird had a misanthropic veterinarian who developed chemicals that can turn humans into dogs and the opposite. After she turns Fi into a dog, she locks Fi up in a cage. Fi however does escape then finds and drinks the antidote, although she becomes naked having forgotten she doesn't have clothes on.
  • Star Trek did this a couple of times. Most notably, the pilot episode for Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Cage".
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • The Twilight Zone (1959):
      • At the end of "People Are Alike All Over", the stranded astronaut realizes that the aliens are indeed just like humanity when he realizes that they trapped him in a Gilded Cage for zoogoers to gawk at.
      • In "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby", a group of aliens mistakes Frisby's tall tales about his own past for an incredible variety of impressive accomplishments because they have no idea what lying is, and tries to abduct what they think is a remarkable alien specimen for their own zoo.
    • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Children's Zoo", Debbie Cunningham, whose parents Sheila and Martin are constantly fighting and are often emotionally and verbally abusive towards her, receives an invitation to the Children's Zoo. Her parents take her to the zoo, very reluctantly, only to discover that it is a zoo where bad parents are imprisoned after being brought there by their children. Debbie inspects five pairs of parents in locked rooms before deciding on the two that she wants to become her new parents.

    Music Videos 


    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the Penguin has a museum featuring several of Gotham's finest criminals, although most of them are either dead or have broken out by the time Batman gets there.
  • The Lost Vikings: Three Vikings—Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout—get kidnapped by Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian empire, for an inter-galactic zoo.
  • Star Control 2: Admiral ZEX has one of these, and wants you to be his latest addition.
  • Stellaris: As of the Heinlein update, Enigmatic Observers Fallen Empire will sometimes ask a younger race they think are not long left for this galaxy (read: just about everyone else) to provide a POPnote  for their Preserve. By any account, those in the Preserve are well-treated but the rest of your Empire will be a bit irritated, and the Enigmatic Observers might be a bit disappointed if you refuse.
  • Tropico: In Tropico 3, you can build "authentic Native villages" as a tourist attraction, although the description notes that the people in them are all employees as the natives were all wiped out by European colonialists centuries ago.
  • Zoo Tycoon: This happens from time to time if poor design allows guests to fall into exhibits. If the animals in such exhibits aren't dangerous, the trapped guests won't panic or flee, but will walk around aimlessly and bitch about not being able to find a bathroom or other amenities.

  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Bob, Jean, and Voluptua are abducted by the cone ship, they briefly entertain the idea that they may be zoo specimens, but finally conclude that they are in fact pets.
  • Jix: The Collector captured specimens of sapient species and kept them on his ship. Though, after he captured Jix and she escaped he had to open his collection to the public to pay for the damages, and since her galaxy-conquering race were among the more likely to patronize his zoo he had to stop using them as specimens.

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm: The Metasoft Version Tree, a powerful empire mostly inhabited by sapient robots, maintains a number of terraformed worlds as reserves stocked with unmodified, Earth-type humans. This is generally done to create "backup" Earths, under the reasoning that if a planet of Earth-type humans was able to create interstellar civilization once it's reasonable to assume that a similar world might be able to "reboot" it should disaster happen, and because baseline humans are something of an endangered species in the setting. As genetic engineering and cybernetic modifications are common, convenient and fairly easy to obtain, most people are at least some degree removed from ancestral humanity and often entirely unlike it, and Homo sapiens sapiens has faced a very real threat of extinction on a number of occasions. The baseline reserves are thus meant to protect stable populations of unmodified humanity, generally with technology strictly restricted to Neolithic to medieval levels and little to no contact with the wider galaxy.
    • Outside of the Version Tree, some such reserves have been taken over by Caretaker Gods, immensely powerful AIs that act as protectors and guardians of unspoiled and valuable planetary environments and prevent outside contact with them. Similar reserve planets exist for other hominid species such as Neanderthals and australopithecines, as well as for unmodified Earth cetaceans, for similar reasons.
    • These reserves are the subject of some debate, as some factions feel it's cruel and unjust to arbitrarily cut off groups of people from civilization. This is especially pronounced among groups who believe that every living creature should moved towards transsapience. The usual reply is that, for all the best intentions, baseline humanity would almost certainly go extinct within a couple centuries if the reserves were opened to unregulated contact.
  • The whole premise behind the animated series Don't Feed The Humans, where humans from different time periods have been abducted by aliens and placed into an intergalactic zoo.

    Western Animation 
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: "A Zoo Out There" features a Higher-Tech Species of The Greys who treat every other sapient species like animals, three of which saw a meeting place for The Federation as easy picking for a for-profit zoo. The "lesser beings" who try to escape are used for product testing. Interestingly, two of the aliens running the zoo in were voiced by Jonathan Harris and Billy Mumy of Lost in Space.
  • Captain Planet: In one episode, an alien came to incorporate the Planeteers into a collection of doomed species from across the galaxy. Fitting with the series' theme, he thinks that mankind, treating the Earth as they are, is doomed to extinction.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: "Operation: Z.O.O." has a zoo of kids.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In one episode, Dark Laser puts the Turner family in an intergalactic zoo for profit. Timmy's parents don't seem to mind much.
  • Futurama: In "Fry and Leela's Big Fling", Fry and Leela go to a private resort which, unbeknown to them, is actually the human habitat of a zoo in a planet of intelligent apes.
  • Mentioned in the Johnny Test episode "JX5: The Final Ending": as Dark Vegan's fleet is on the verge of rendering Earth uninhabitable and he's thwarted Johnny's third attempt to destroy the fleet (activating the Self-Destruct Mechanism, which Vegan ripped out the switch for), he half-heartedly assures his daughter Jillian that since she likes Johnny, he'll make sure he and his friends are relocated to a zoo on their home planet of Vegandon.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Robot of Riga", aliens kidnap Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane and put them in a cage on their homeworld Riga.
  • Regular Show: The original concept was for Mordecai and Rigby to be zookeepers at a zoo full of humans. JG Quintel was originally very adamant about the idea, while Cartoon Network was equally adamant about that being a terrible idea. They got him to change it before creating the show's pilot episode, a decision that Quintel later said he was incredibly thankful the network forced on him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • One of the Couch Gags puts the titular family in one of these. Run by Kang and Kodos's species, of course.
    • One episode revolved around this idea with them abducted by the duo themselves at a theme park.
    • Another couch gag that parodied the opening to The Jetsons shows that Homer is in a futuristic exhibit, titled "Why Humans Failed", for robots (including Bender) to look at.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: In "The Eye of the Beholder", the crew discovers a planet that serves as a world-sized zoo kept by the lactrans, a species of superintelligent slug-lige aliens, and are captured and imprisoned in an exhibit alongside the crew of the ship they had come to rescue.
  • Steven Universe has a zoo space station run by gems and full of humans simply called "the Zoo". The current residents have all grown up there, so they don't know anything but well-cared for captivity. Steven and the Gems go there to rescue Greg after he's taken by Blue Diamond. The Zoo was originally Pink Diamond's, but was created by Blue Diamond, who misunderstood Pink's request for the Diamonds to preserve organic life, and its original population were humans abducted from Earth during Homeworld's attempted colonization. Thousands of years later, their descendants still live there. By Steven Universe: Future, the humans have been given control of the ship, basically making it a Colony Ship wandering the universe while the gems hang around partying.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: "The Main Man" involves an intergalactic collector called Preserver that likes to acquire the last of any species in the entire universe. While his collection consists mostly of non-sapient beasts, he also ends up collecting Superman and Lobo as they're the last known Kryptonian and Czarnian, respectively. Of course that idea doesn't end well for him. This event is revisited in the Batman Beyond two-parter where Superman shows up to reconstitute the Justice League, and it turns out the collection includes the arc's Puppeteer Parasite Big Bad.

    Real Life 
  • The Denver Zoo did this once, presumably using volunteers working for charity on pledges. They got complaints from parents and animal rights groups alike.
  • Edinburgh Zoo once held a similar exhibition, using performance artists in an enclosure that used to have ducks in it.
  • In Ancient Rome, this was just a normal day at the Colosseum.
  • Many zoos in Europe and America had "authentic Negro villages" built in them during the 19th century, with some staying open as late as the mid-20th century. The people in them were usually at least nominally volunteers, but they were paid poorly and (needless to say) it was quite a humiliating colonialist practice.
  • A pygmy named Ota Benga was kept in the Bronx Zoo in 1906. Ota Benga's career began at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Most World's Fairs between 1889 and 1939 included human displays of "inferior" (meaning non-white) people in their allegedly natural surroundings, as well as Renaissance-Faire style recreations of old-fashioned European towns. Other human exhibits included celebrities like Helen Keller and occasionally premature babies. Oddly, many of the participants were there willingly; the pay could be surprisingly good.
  • In 1945 US Army Air Force navigator Raymond "Hap" Halloran was shot down over Tokyo, Japan and was captured by a group of civilians and soldiers. They then beat and stripped him naked before locking him in one of the tiger cages in the Ueno Zoo where people would look at him like he was one of the animals until he was taken to an actual POW facility.
  • Circus "side shows" often have elements of this, with humans (either with unusual physical features or unusual talents, such as sword swallowing) being exhibited alongside animals.
  • Many zoos have "world's most dangerous animal" exhibits which consist of either a mirror or a fake cage visitors can stand in to get their photo taken.