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The Human Zoo of Paris

East of the city in Paris’s Bois de Vincennes, sits whats left of an Exposition Coloniale, or the forgotten human zoo of Paris. Back in France’s colonial days, they held an exhibition in Paris to show the different cultures and lives of people in French territory. Today the area of what was basically a human zoo in Paris is a small park in a corner of the Bois de Vincennes. You can take a walk through the park and explore what’s left of the human zoo of Paris today. Many of the buildings and structures have long since disappeared but there are still a few left standing. Some are restored and in better shape than others. A pending renovation sign at the entrance explained that some structures would be torn down or renovated soon.

Exposition Colonial Paris Entrance

The entrance to the human zoo then and now.

Entrance to the park today.

Exposition Coloniale

The French brought native people to the park to live in pavilions built to look like their natural homes. Since traveling to exotic locations was much rarer than that it is today, this was to give French people a chance to see the different cultures from around the French Empire in their natural habitat.

Human Zoo of Paris NOW

Now

Some of the buildings, have been well maintained through the years. This one is still in use today by park staff possibly.

Then

Human Zoo of Paris Map

A map of the Human Zoo of Paris during the Exposition Coloniale. The garden today is roughly the exact footprint of the exhibition when it was held in 1907.

Human Zoo of Paris NOW

Many of the buildings in the zoo however are in complete ruin like this one. However some of the more interesting pavilions are still standing in good shape like the Indonesian pavilion below.

Human Zoo of Paris NOW

  Human Zoo of Paris NOWExposition ColonialeHuman Zoo of Paris THEN

The people who lived in the park likely were never returned home from the human zoo.

Then

Then

Now

Now

To find the Human Zoo of Paris

If you want to explore the human zoo of Paris take the metro to Porte Dorée on line 8 or Château de Vincennes on line 1. Once you enter the Bois de Vincennes, walk to the west end of the forest. The entrance to the Human Zoo of Paris is on Ave. de la belle Gabrielle.

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