People should stop making memes and jokes about Harambe, the gorilla that was shot after a child fell in his enclosure, according to the Cincinnati Zoo where he lived.
At the end of May this year, a three-year-old climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo in Ohio. After the child was grabbed by Harambe, a zoo worker shot and killed the gorilla, because officials were afraid that the boy would be killed.
Since then, Harambe has become memorialised in more or less sincere memes, jokes and petitions. Those take various forms, and come from various parts of the internet and from across the political spectrum.
Interest in Harambe has surged in recent months, as the gorilla has been revived as a meme. Google Trends shows that searches for the gorilla’s name are now almost equal with their peak in the first week of June, when news hit that he had been killed.
But the Cincinnati Zoo has asked for those memes and other jokes to come to an end.
“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 honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us.”
Other voices on the internet have said that the jokes have now gone too far and should be brought to an end.
WCPO-TV web editor James Leggate recently started his own petition, for instance, which asks that petitions about Harambe are stopped.
“At first, the petitioners had good intentions,” he wrote. “But then the goofuses of the Internet hopped on the Harambe train for their jollies, and it has gotten out of control.”
Animal rights activist Anthony Seta organized a Cincinnati vigil in tribute to Harambe soon after he was killed. He said much of the attention in terms of memorials had been positive.
“For the most part, I’m very happy with it. It shows people are remembering what a wonderful being he was,” he said. “The ones that are mocking and making light of the death of this being, I find incredibly offensive.”
Ashley Byrne, an associate director at PETA, said that the trolls were in the minority among the people who were mourning the gorilla.
“This tragic incident really did start a new conversation,” she said. “Most people who saw the video came away with a great degree of empathy for animals forced to live in captivity.”