Harambe: Don’t you forget about memes

Cinncinnati Zoo have requested that the internet stop memeing incessantly about its late gorilla. The internet has responded, ‘no’


Image: Mark Dumont

Now this may seem like an odd topic for a comment article but I believe it to be an important one. Harambe was a beautiful silverback gorilla, one of the world’s most endangered species, who was cruelly cut down in the prime of his life at Cincinnati Zoo thanks to an incident with a small child who fell into his enclosure.

With the death of Harambe a meme was born. The meme is wide in scope, ranging from the mournful RIP Harambe to the more explicit #DicksoutforHarambe. His picture has been widely shared as the internet keeps alive the memory of the dead primate. Now Cincinnati Zoo have stepped in, calling for the internet to stop with the memeing of Harambe, and allow “its Zoo family to heal”.

Mercifully the internet has continued unabated and the meme is going from strength to strength. In my own political party’s youth wing, the sacred name of Harambe has become a default option in all Facebook polls; usually coming in the top three.

Now some of you may be thinking that Harambe is old news, but I think the reason this latest internet craze has continued for so long is because of the circumstances of Harambe’s martyrdom. Harambe was part of an endangered species. Silverback gorillas are not common on this earth due to poaching. Zoos were on the front line of conservation designed to protect the rarest animals on the planet. The fact that Harambe was killed in a zoo by his protectors is more than ironic and the internet clearly has not forgotten.

Secondly, the fact that Harambe died because a toddler managed to fall into the gorilla enclosure begs the question of whether the enclosure was entirely secure. Indeed, the whole sorry episode seems like a catalogue of failure on the part of Cincinnati Zoo. Generally, small children don’t fall into animal enclosures in public zoos.

So that begs the question: why does Cincinnati Zoo ask the public not to meme about our dearly departed Harambe? Is it because the meme is simply in poor taste? Perhaps, but I believe it is because of the negative publicity the event has generated. I had never heard of Cincinnati Zoo before HarambeGate.

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure where Cincinnati is on a map, only that it’s in the U.S. However, across the globe, tech savvy young people keep the memory of Harambe alive and with it Cincinnati Zoo’s part in his death.

When a zoo has to kill an animal as rare as a gorilla it makes the news. The raison d’etre of a zoo is conservation; with Harambe’s death Cincinnati Zoo’s reputation has been tarnished. That is why they want to stop the meme. Harambe’s death was a preventable tragedy and the internet saw that. So in my opinion, carry on memeing, it’s what he would have wanted.

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