Gone, but not forgotten: Harambe lives on in the realm of internet tomfoolery.
The Cousin’s Take
On May 28, an event transpired at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens that would be heard across the globe. Junior Jaidyn Coleman is cousins with three-year-old Isaiah, son of Michelle Gregg. Isaiah is better known to the public as the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure.
When Coleman first heard the news from her mother, she said she was not shocked.
“I know it’s sad to think I did this, but I laughed when I heard the news,” Coleman said. “It was something Isaiah would do. He’s a very rambunctious kid. One time we we stayed in a hotel, and he pulled the electrical socket out of the wall and carried it around.”
Coleman did not realize how quickly and how greatly the story would spread; she said the media outlets had some inaccuracies.
“The national news kept trying to say he had severe injuries,” Coleman said. “In reality, he had a scrape on his head, a bruise on his rib, and scrapes on his arms and his legs. The first day it was on global news, they were still saying he had severe injuries which wasn’t true because I was at the hospital with him.”
Once the story began getting mass public attention, Coleman said a lawyer advised her to shut down her Facebook account.
“There were all these hurtful things about Michelle and Isaiah,” Coleman said. “It was really hard to watch because there were racist things. Some comments said, ‘They should have shot the kid rather than the gorilla’. My brother and I were so angry. I wish they didn’t have to kill Harambe, but it was the only way to get Isaiah out safely. ”
Coleman said the public’s impression of Michelle is skewed.
“Michelle is one of the best mothers I know,” Coleman said. “She has four kids all under the age of eight, and I don’t know how she does it on a day-to-day basis. People said that she should have had charges brought against her and I was just like ‘Really?’”
Harambe: The Internet Icon
Harambe memorabilia, Youtube songs, and a plethora of memes have flooded the internet. Petitions to get justice for Harambe have evolved into satiric ones. These include petitions to get Harambe on the $50 bill, to make him a Pokemon character, and to rename Tropical Storm Hermine to Tropical Storm Harambe. The 17-year-old silverback gorilla has evolved into an icon.
Coleman said she is amused by the Harambe jokes made online – to an extent.
“I think the memes are funny,” Coleman said. “If there is anything though regarding my aunt or my cousin though, I just shut those down. But if there are jokes like ‘Harambe for President 2020,’ I can laugh at those.”
Senior Jack Engle, a dedicated Harambe supporter, said he believes that justice should be granted to Harambe.
“Harambe was a great figure at the Cincinnati Zoo,” Engle said. “He was loved by everyone. He had his life taken so unfairly. Yes, there was a boy in there; he was trying to have fun with the boy.”
Criticism of the Death and Memes
Senior Emily Rosado said she believes the social media posts are funny, but excessive.
“At the freshman spirit party, there was a team called ‘Greens out for Harambe’ and they chanted about Harambe,” Rosado said. “It’s really sad he had to be killed, but some people are over the top about it. I’ve seen so many memes and Vine videos. It can be amusing, but there is a point when the line is drawn.”
Sophomore Alexis Hoeler said that the Cincinnati Zoo should have taken a different course of action regarding the incident.
“Harambe shouldn’t have been killed, and I think the Mother should have been fined for her child,” Hoeler said. “They should have sued her because they had to kill one of their animals.”
Hoeler said the internet attention Harambe has gotten is not celebrating his life.
“It’s kind of ridiculous because they are making fun of the gorilla when the child was in his habitat,” Hoeler said. “It wasn’t the gorilla’s fault.”
The Zoo’s Response
When the incident first occurred, the Zoo closed down its Gorilla World exhibit for ten days. It installed a taller public barrier with knotted rope netting and surveillance cameras in order to prevent any future disasters.
The Zoo has attempted to turn the attention away from Harambe after being bombarded with post after post regarding its lost comrade. On August 23, the Zoo released a statement that requested for the internet fame to stop. Director Maynard said the Zoo was still healing and they wanted the memes, petitions, and signs to end That same day, the Cincinnati Zoo deactivated its Twitter account entirely.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens denied comment.