By Margarita Williamson, Trending Writer
At the end of May an incident at a Cincinnati zoo ignited an outpour of grief, outrage, and confusion across the country after a small boy made his way into a gorilla enclosure. According to CNN, “the 3-year-old boy was dragged across a moat by the 450-pound gorilla on Saturday. After a 10-minute encounter, Cincinnati Zoo officials shot and killed the beloved and endangered gorilla, named Harambe. The boy was not seriously injured.”
Since the incident, Harambe memes have been a topic of discussion on many social media platforms. The Associated Press reported that the Cincinnati Zoo director said by email, “We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe. 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.”
Nearly every trending meme has incorporated Harambe into it. “I think the memes distract from what people are actually upset about. Most people are upset that the animal died, but they aren’t going about it the right way,” said Amanda Shute, a sophomore biology major. Memes are often of a dark humor nature and are meant to be laughed at and shared repeatedly. However, when it comes down to the facts there is nothing funny about a child falling into an enclosure of a massive animal nor are the events that happened after. “I think that when the memes were made they did not have bad intentions,” said Efrain Vallejo, a freshman diplomacy major.
There has also been debate over whether or not Harambe’s death was justified or a result of poor parenting. Every person looking after a child has found themselves to be distracted at one time or another. This incident is different because of where the parents were when they lost track of their small child. People find it hard to believe that a ‘good’ parent could allow their child to wander off into the enclosure of a massive gorilla. Even if zoo officials perceived the beloved gorilla to be harmless they still had to take action or else the situation could have been fatal for the boy. It is definitely unsettling that the event even occurred but the alternative to shooting an animal on the endangered species list would be a small boy being mauled. According to the Cincinnati Zoo website, after the incident they spent several days re-evaluating the exhibit and added a higher barrier railing.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.
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