After Darwin advanced the claim with his book The Descent of Man that man evolved from ape-like living beings, he started to seek fossils to support this contention. However, some evolutionists believed that "half-man half-ape" creatures were to be found not only in fossil record, but also alive in various parts of the world.

In the early 20th century, these pursuits for "living transitional links" led to unfortunate incidents, one of the cruellest of which is the story of a Pygmy by the name of Ota Benga.

Ota Benga was captured in 1904 by an evolutionist researcher in the Congo. In his own tongue, his name meant "friend". He had a wife and two children...

Chained and caged like an animal, he was taken to the USA where evolutionist scientists displayed him to the public in the St Louis World Fair along with other ape species and introduced him as "the closest transitional link to man".

Two years later, they took him to the Bronx Zoo in New York and there they exhibited him under the denomination of "ancient ancestors of man" along with a few chimpanzees, a gorilla named Dinah, and an orang-utan called Do-hung. Dr William T. Hornaday, the zoo's evolutionist director gave long speeches on how proud he was to have this exceptional "transitional form" in his zoo and treated caged Ota Benga as if he were an ordinary animal.

Unable to bear the treatment he was subjected to, Ota Benga eventually committed suicide.

Philips Verner Bradford, Harvey Blume, Ota Benga: The Pygmy in The Zoo
New York: Delta Books, 1992

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