Nearly three months after Harambe was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo to ensure the safety of a little boy, memes using the gorilla’s image continue to flood the internet.
Harambe-related memes, often tongue-in-cheek or satirical, have become so popular that the zoo is now speaking out against social media’s obsession with the gorilla.
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, told The Associated Press. “Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us.”
Many of the Harambe memes center on the idea of memorializing the gorilla, who was killed in May after he grabbed and dragged a 3-year-old boy who had fallen into his enclosure. The Cincinnati Zoo received intense criticism for deciding to shoot the 17-year-old gorilla. The family of the toddler was also criticized, with some people calling for the family to be prosecuted.
Beyond the absurd, some instances of the Harambe meme have been highly offensive, including one version used as a racist attack against black celebrities.
In addition to the memes, there are also hundreds of Harambe-related petitions on Change.org, including efforts to turn the gorilla into a pokémon, canonize the animal and rename the Cincinnati Bengals the Cincinnati Harambes.
The petitions have grown so numerous and often ridiculous that James Leggate of Cincinnati station WCPO started a petition to put an end to Harambe petitions on Change.org.
“At first, the petitioners had good intentions,” Leggate wrote on WCPO’s website. “They were upset that Harambe died. ... But then the goofuses of the internet hopped on the Harambe train for their jollies, and it has gotten out of control.”
Leggate has a point: These memes and petitions may be entertaining, but they also risk turning a tragic event into the butt of a joke. If you want to give meaning to Harambe’s death, there are more effective ways to support gorillas and animal conservation.