Future Tense

Haunted by Harambe, Cincinnati Zoo Shutters Social Accounts

The Cincinnati Zoo shut down their Twitter account late Monday.

Screenshot via Twitter

Though Harambe the gorilla was killed by Cincinnati zookeepers in May—shot in order to save a 4-year-old boy who tumbled into the enclosure—the slain primate has led a robust afterlife, thanks to internet users who turned the gorilla into a macabre phenomenon. Depending on your tastes, the Harambe memes are either funny or out of line, but for the Cincinnati Zoo (and its harassed social media team), the endless stream of Harambe tweets was simply too much.

The zoo deactivated its Twitter account late Monday, not long after Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard pleaded with the public to let Harambe’s memory rest in peace.

“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Maynard, said by email, according to an Associated Press article published early Monday. “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.”

The zoo’s Facebook page has also been shut down.

As Brian Feldman recently wrote in New York magazine, the Harmabe memes are just “fairly standard internet non-sequitur nonsense humor.” Just take a look at many of the Haramabe jokes that have been leveled at the zoo’s social media accounts, which are identical in construction to classic middle-school “your mom” jokes, the ultimate non-sequiturs. They go like this: Tween A says something. Tween B repeats the phrase, but inserts “your mom” into it, with the intent to insult. For example:

Tween A: Ew, that dog’s face is all squished and gross-looking.

Tween B: Your mom’s face is all squished and gross-looking!


The same principle was at work with many of the Harambe messages sent in response to the zoo’s prosaic tweets. For example, the zoo might tweet about an event happening between 2–6 p.m. only to be met with:

Or, when the zoo tweeted about #humpday:

When the zoo tweeted about aquatic members:

The jokes aren’t necessarily cruel, but after dealing with such a high volume of them for a prolonged period of time, it’s no surprise the Cincinnati Zoo chose to deactivate its accounts. But will that solve its Harambe problem? So far, it doesn’t seem like it.