Stop the Harambe Memes, Pleads Cincinnati Zoo

By Gerald Lynch on at

Your Harambe tributes are not appreciated, according to the zoo that was once the home of the fallen gorilla.

Harambe, a star attraction at the Cincinnati Zoo, was shot and killed back in May of this year after a three year old fell into its enclosure. Fearing the child was in danger, a zoo worker was forced to kill the gorilla.

While the ethics around that decision have been well explored in the months since the event, Harambe has become something of a meme martyr. And while some have been good-natured, others (such a jokey "Harambe for President" campaigns), have not been appreciated by those at the zoo who were forced to make that difficult decision.

"We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe," Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo director, told the Associated Press.

"Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honouring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us."

Harambe makes an interesting subject for a meme explosion (search interest in Harambe now approaches the same level as when the animal was killed, suggesting that the memes themselves are now the key drawer of interest for the term name).

It was certainly a tragic event, but an animal's death is considered fair game for satire by many, where creating memes of a human in any conceivably analogous situation would certainly be in poor taste. Even the ones that are more derisive in tone are keeping the subject in the public consciousness, which allows for a continuing conversation about how we deal with animals in captivity – which is surely a positive thing. Cincinnati Zoo would do well to participate in this conversation rather than call to silence it, if only to prevent detractors accusing them of attempting to pull the rug over the event.