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People Zoo

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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 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. Not to be confused with Petting Zoo People. 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 displayed in a zoo.
  • In TerraforMARS, the cockroach Terraformars kidnapped thousands of humans within Tokyo. Many were kidnapped when they were cleaning themselves in the bathrooms. They were taken to a facility where the Terraformars and with the aid of the Chinese People's republic and the Newton Clan, conducted 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 
  • Marvel Comics' The Collector does this upon occasion.
  • Strange Adventures #108 (September 1959) story "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land". Intelligent gorilla-like alien put human beings on display in a pet store. The story was reprinted in From Beyond the Unknown #14 (December 1971).
  • 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.
  • One The Punisher 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Disney movie Can Of Worms, a species of alien 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 the film version of 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.
  • 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 using apes, including himself, as zoo entertainment and test subjects for drug experiments.
      Koba: HUMANS! You ape prisoner now! You will know life in cage!!
  • A deleted song from Mary Poppins focuses on a "Chimpanzoo" where humans are caged for animals to gawk at.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, 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.

  • The book 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.
  • The main character in Slaughterhouse-Five gets put into one of these (together with a porn star) by the Tralfamadorians.
  • In the Isaac Asimov story 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 first Time Machine short story by Donald Keith, "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".
  • 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.
  • In a short story by Edward Hoch, a spaceship carrying a travelling zoo 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 and other worlds. It was perfectly safe though, as they were behind protective bars the whole time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek did this a couple of times. Most notably, the pilot episode for Star Trek: The Original Series: "The Cage/The Menagerie"
  • Occurred in the episode "A Day at the Zoo" of Lost in Space and the two part episode "The Keeper"
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • TOS episodes. The reveal at the end of "People Are Alike All Over" and attempted in "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby".
    • Subverted in an episode from the 1985 revival series. "The Children's Zoo" had a zoo that was like this, but it is a zoo that focuses on bad parents. Children who receive invitations to this zoo are allowed to exchange their parents with a brand new mother and father who're much more caring and attentive. A little girl receives a new mom and dad and leaves with them, while her old parents are left behind in a display, screaming at her to come back.
  • One of the last episodes of The Office had 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.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? had the episode "The Tale Of The Closet Keepers" where some aliens who use closets as portals capture kids to put in a zoo.
  • First Doctor companion Steven in Doctor Who is being kept in one for two years by robots called Mechanoids. 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 Red Dwarf episode "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.
  • Person of Interest. Team Machine discover a Town with a Dark Secret in "MIA". 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.
  • Likewise in Odyssey 5, which also has a prison being secretly run by an Artificial Intelligence to study human behaviour, in this case aggression specifically.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Music Videos 

    Video Games 
  • In Star Control 2 Admiral ZEX has one of these. And he wants you to be his latest addition.
  • This is why Tomator kidnapped The Lost Vikings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • As of the Heinlein update, Enigmatic Observer Fallen Empires in Stellaris 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.
  • Happens accidentally from time to time in Zoo Tycoon, 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.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "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.
  • Steven Universe has such a zoo 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 was taken by Blue Diamond. The zoo was made for Pink Diamond by Blue Diamond after the former's request 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.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • "Operation: Z.O.O." has a zoo of kids.
    • In another episode there is Bully Island, though the bullies don't speak or really act human, more like dinosaurs.
  • "The Main Man" from Superman: The Animated Series involved an intergalactic collector called Preserver that liked to acquire the last of any species in the entire universe. While his collection was mostly non-sapient beasts, he also ended up collecting Superman and Lobo as they were the last known Kryptonian and Czarnian, respectively. Of course that idea didn't end well for him. This event is revisited in the Batman Beyond two-parter where Superman showed up to reconstitute the Justice League, and it turns out the collection included the arc's Puppeteer Parasite Big Bad.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Eye of the Beholder"
  • The Simpsons:
    • One of the couch gags puts the titular family in one of these. Run by Kang and Kodos's species, of course.
    • 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.
  • Captain Planet featured an episode where an alien came to incorporate the Planeteers into a collection of doomed species from across the galaxy. Fitting with the series' theme, he thought mankind, treating the Earth as they were, were doomed to extinction.
  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "The Robot of Riga". Aliens kidnap Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane and put them in a cage on their home planet Riga.
  • This was the original concept for Regular Show, with creator JG Quintel being very adamant about the idea of Mordecai and Rigby working as zookeepers there. Cartoon Network was equally adamant about that being a terrible idea and 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.
  • Happens in an episode of The Fairly OddParents! when Dark Laser put 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.

    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 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.


Example of: