The internet is saying “RIP Harambe” in the best way it knows how – with memes. It has been five years since the gorilla was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, and social media users are picturing Harambe in heaven and mourning that they are here without Harambe.
Harambe was a 17-year-old Western lowland silverback gorilla who was fatally shot at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden after a 3-year-old boy fell into the enclosure May 28, 2016, according to statements from the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe turned 17 the day before he died, and the zoo wrote a happy birthday post to him that turned into an archive of memorials the next day. Harambe had been transferred from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas to the Cincinnati Zoo within a year of his death, according to the zoo’s Harambe archives.
Harambe’s death gained him postmortem celebrity status, and he became a social media icon. The silverback gorilla was the subject of memes, trends and even a song in his honor. The trend is still going strong five years after he died, and “RIP Harambe” was a trending term on Twitter on the fifth anniversary of his death.
Here’s what you need to know:
‘Legends Never Die,’ Says a Meme About Harambe Memes
Harambe memes continue to be popular five years after the gorilla’s death.
One of the most popular memes depicts Harambe in heaven, sitting on a cloud with a beam of light cast over his fur.
“Harambe died 5 years ago, on May 28th, 2016, the day after his seventeenth birthday Gorilla Rest In Peace!” one person wrote on Twitter.
Another Harambe in heaven meme depicts him with angel wings and a halo.
“God… I always forget, but remembering every year gets harder and harder. It might be my birthday, but for someone… it was their last day… RIP Harambe” another person wrote on Twitter.
The death of the Harambe garnered widespread attention the day after he died in 2016, when the story was on the front page of a news subreddit, according to Know Your Meme. A Change.org petition called for Justice for Harambe, and photoshopped pictures of Harambe began circulating on Weird Twitter, Know Your Meme wrote.
The Associated Press spoke to Cincinnati officials about the trend in an article published August 22, 2016.
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo director, told the AP by email. “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.”
Some 2021 Harambe memes had a COVID-19 theme. One person shared a gif of Harambe and wrote about getting the coronavirus vaccine.
“Getting the JNJ covid vaccine today.. if I do end up being the unlucky one with blood clotting complications, at least I’ll be remembered with Harambe. #RIPHarambe” the person wrote.
The ‘Here Without Harambe’ Song Became an Internet Trend in 2016
“Here Without Harambe,” sung to the tune of 3 Doors Down’s “Here Without You,” became a popular trend in the months after Harambe’s death. Some of the viral versions of the song included a clip of Marines singing the song and a cover by Brian Revell, which had more than 800,000 views.
Revell wrote on his YouTube video that the version by 2 Guys 1 Van was the original “Here Without Harambe” cover song. It had about half a million views five years after Harambe died. You can watch that version above. The YouTube video opens with a news story about Harambe’s death. The news reporter says a zookeeper cared for him at home for one year when Harambe was young.
“Well that zookeeper says he has not stopped crying since that gorilla died,” a reporter says on the clip.
The post also advertised Harambe merchandise.
“1 purchase = 1 prayer,” the video said. “He deserves it.”