Harambe Video and the Causes of Harambe Death

Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, became a name recognized around the world following a tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28, 2016. Born on May 27, 1999, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, Harambe’s life took a dramatic turn when a three-year-old boy inadvertently fell into his enclosure. The Harambe video, capturing this incident and widely disseminated, sparked international debate and controversy over the decision to use lethal force to prevent potential harm to the child.

The video of Harambe, showing him dragging and at times, appearing to shield the boy, ignited a storm of public opinion. Questions arose about zoo safety, the adequacy of enclosure barriers, and the ethical considerations of lethal force. The incident not only led to Harambe’s death but also set the stage for a broader discussion on the challenges and responsibilities of zoos in the modern age.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Harambe’s life, from his upbringing to the fateful day at the Cincinnati Zoo. It will detail the circumstances of the incident, including the immediate actions taken by zoo personnel and the aftermath that followed. Additionally, the article will discuss the impact of Harambe’s death on zoo safety protocols, public sentiment, and how it influenced debates on wildlife captivity. Through expert insights and a review of the incident’s cultural repercussions, we will explore the legacy of Harambe and the lessons learned from this poignant event.

WhoHarambe, a western lowland gorilla
WhatTragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo where Harambe was shot after a boy fell into his enclosure
WhenIncident occurred on May 28, 2016; Harambe born on May 27, 1999
WhereCincinnati Zoo; Born at Gladys Porter Zoo, Texas
Incident DetailsHarambe dragged and appeared to shield the boy, leading to a debate over the use of lethal force
ControversySparked debates on zoo safety, enclosure barriers, and ethics of lethal force
AftermathDiscussion on zoo safety protocols, public sentiment, and influence on wildlife captivity debates
LegacyExploration of Harambe’s impact and the lessons learned from the incident

Early Life and Upbringing

Birth and Naming

Harambe, the western lowland gorilla whose story would captivate the world, was born on May 27, 1999, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. His arrival was a celebrated event, not just for the zoo, but for the broader conservation community, as western lowland gorillas are classified as critically endangered. From his earliest days, Harambe was a symbol of hope for the conservation efforts aimed at preserving his species.

The naming of Harambe was the result of a community engagement initiative by the zoo. Dan Van Coppenolle, a local area counselor, won a naming contest sponsored by the zoo. He chose the name “Harambe,” inspired by the 1988 song “Harambe (Working Together for Freedom)” by Rita Marley, the widow of Bob Marley. The name, which is derived from the Swahili word for communal labor, was fitting for a species that relies heavily on social structures and cooperative behaviors for survival.

Transfer to Cincinnati Zoo

As Harambe grew, the decision was made to transfer him to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on September 18, 2014. This move was part of a broader strategy coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure genetic diversity and healthy breeding within zoo populations, a practice crucial for the conservation of endangered species. The Cincinnati Zoo was selected because it offered a new and dynamic environment that was thought to be ideal for Harambe’s continued development and integration into a well-established gorilla troop.

Upon arrival in Cincinnati, Harambe was gradually introduced to adult gorilla behaviors, which are complex and require careful learning under the supervision of experienced gorillas. The Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World was equipped with a variety of enrichment tools and programs designed to simulate a natural environment and encourage natural behaviors. Integration into a new social group was a critical step for Harambe, as gorillas are highly social animals that thrive in a structured group dynamic. The process involved close monitoring by zookeepers and gradual introduction to the new troop members, ensuring that Harambe adapted well and established his place within the group hierarchy.

Integration Challenges and Successes

Integrating a young male gorilla like Harambe into a new group is a delicate process. The existing troop, led by a dominant silverback, has its established norms and social rankings. For Harambe, this meant learning to navigate these dynamics, recognizing cues from other gorillas, and finding his role within the troop. These interactions are vital, as they affect everything from feeding order to grooming relationships and play interactions.

Harambe’s integration was notably successful in several ways. He was observed participating in play with other gorillas, which is a critical aspect of social bonding and learning in gorilla societies. He also showed signs of forming attachments with both female gorillas and the troop’s silverback, which indicated his acceptance into the group.

The skills and behaviors that Harambe learned during his time at the Cincinnati Zoo were not just crucial for his personal development but also for the conservation efforts aimed at understanding and preserving gorilla social structures. These efforts are vital for the planning and management of both in-situ and ex-situ conservation programs.

Reflection on Conservation Efforts

Harambe’s early life and upbringing highlight the complex interplay between conservation efforts and animal welfare in modern zoos. His story underscores the importance of genetic diversity and social integration in the conservation of endangered species, particularly those, like the western lowland gorilla, that are on the brink of extinction. As zoos continue to evolve, the lessons learned from Harambe’s life are crucial in shaping future policies and practices that balance animal welfare with the goals of conservation.

Birth and SignificanceHarambe was born on May 27, 1999, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. His birth was significant for conservation efforts as western lowland gorillas are critically endangered.
NamingThe name “Harambe” was chosen by Dan Van Coppenolle after winning a community contest. It was inspired by a song by Rita Marley and reflects the Swahili word for communal labor.
Transfer to Cincinnati ZooOn September 18, 2014, Harambe was transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo as part of a strategy to maintain genetic diversity and support conservation through responsible breeding practices.
Integration and SocializationHarambe was integrated into a new gorilla troop at the Cincinnati Zoo, where he learned adult gorilla behaviors and established his position within the group’s social structure.
Conservation ImpactHarambe’s upbringing and experiences at the zoo played a key role in the broader conservation efforts to understand and preserve gorilla social structures.
Overall ImportanceHarambe’s story highlights the importance of genetic diversity, social integration, and the interplay between animal welfare and conservation efforts in modern zoos.

The Incident and Video

Details of the Event

On May 28, 2016, a distressing incident at the Cincinnati Zoo turned a routine visit into a widely publicized emergency. A three-year-old boy, who had expressed a desire to enter the gorilla enclosure, managed to breach the barriers designed to keep visitors and animals apart. Climbing a 3-foot-tall fence, crawling through 4 feet of bushes, the boy then fell approximately 15 feet into a shallow moat within the gorilla habitat, directly into the enclosure housing Harambe and two female gorillas.

Harambe, the 440-pound male western lowland gorilla, initially showed signs of curiosity. He descended into the moat to investigate the new arrival. Observers and subsequent video footage suggest that Harambe’s initial reactions were not aggressive. However, the situation rapidly escalated as onlookers’ screams and sudden movements likely confused and agitated the gorilla.

Harambe’s Behavior with the Child in the Enclosure and Video

Over the next ten minutes, Harambe’s behavior became increasingly unpredictable. He was seen dragging the child through the water, then lifting and moving him to different parts of the enclosure. While there were moments where Harambe appeared protective, positioning the child between his legs or propping him up, his movements were erratic and powerful. Notably, Harambe exhibited “strutting” behavior walking around with legs and arms stiffly extended, a display typically used to appear larger and more intimidating.

Video of the actions leading to the death of Harambe

Despite the chaotic scene, there were fleeting moments that suggested Harambe was not directly harming the child, such as times when he held the boy’s hand or examined his clothing. However, the potential for harm in such an unpredictable and tense situation remained high, given the significant strength and power of an adult male gorilla.

Zoo’s Response and Harambe’s Death

Immediate actions by zoo officials were prompted by the critical need to protect the child’s life. The zoo’s dangerous animal response team was summoned as standard protocol for such incidents. Recognizing the severe risk to the child, especially given Harambe’s size and strength, the team made the rapid and weighty decision to use lethal force.

The choice to shoot Harambe rather than use a tranquilizer was based on several factors. A tranquilizer dart, while non-lethal, would not have had an immediate effect. It could have taken several minutes for the sedative to incapacitate Harambe, during which time he could have inadvertently harmed the child, especially if startled or agitated by the dart. The decision to shoot Harambe was driven by the immediate need to cease the threat to the child’s life, a decision that zoo officials described as the only viable option in a critical emergency.

This decision was met with instant execution; a single rifle shot was fired, which fatally wounded Harambe. The intervention allowed the rescue team to reach and secure the child, who was then quickly transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Fortunately, the child sustained no life-threatening injuries and was soon released.

Aftermath and Reflection

The decision to kill Harambe was met with international outcry and debate. This incident raised profound questions about zoo safety measures, the placement of barriers, and the protocols in place for handling such emergencies. Critics argued that the death of a critically endangered animal highlighted the broader ethical issues surrounding the captivity of wild animals for public display.

Harambe’s death became a catalyst for discussions on improving enclosure security to prevent similar incidents and on reevaluating emergency protocols to prioritize non-lethal solutions whenever possible. The tragedy also sparked a broader dialogue about the challenges of keeping large, potentially dangerous animals in environments accessible to the public, balancing animal welfare with public safety.

Incident Date and LocationMay 28, 2016, at the Cincinnati Zoo
Incident DescriptionA three-year-old boy entered the gorilla enclosure, falling into a moat where he encountered Harambe, a male western lowland gorilla.
Gorilla’s ReactionHarambe displayed curiosity and not initial aggression, but became unpredictable, possibly agitated by the crowd.
Actions TakenThe zoo’s dangerous animal response team decided to shoot Harambe with a rifle due to the immediate threat to the child, rather than use a tranquilizer.
OutcomeHarambe was killed; the boy was rescued with no life-threatening injuries and transported to the hospital.
Public and Ethical ResponseWidespread outcry and debate over zoo safety, barrier adequacy, and the ethics of lethal force in such scenarios.
Impact and LegacyDiscussion on improving zoo safety, reevaluating emergency protocols, and balancing animal welfare with public safety.

Aftermath and Reactions

Immediate Consequences

Following the tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, the young boy who had fallen into Harambe’s enclosure was promptly taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. His injuries were assessed by medical professionals, who determined they were not life-threatening. The boy was able to return home a few days later, much to the relief of his family and the public. However, the emotional and psychological impacts of such an event were not detailed, leaving a broader conversation about the trauma experienced by all involved.

The public and media reaction to the viral video was explosive and far-reaching. The footage spread across the internet like wildfire, igniting a storm of controversy and debate about the circumstances leading to Harambe’s death. People around the world scrutinized the video, analyzing Harambe’s interactions with the child and questioning the decisions made by the zoo staff. This incident raised significant concerns about zoo safety measures, the adequacy of enclosure barriers, and the ethical implications of lethal force.

Investigations and Legal Considerations

In the aftermath of Harambe’s death, the Cincinnati Police Department launched an investigation into the incident. The focus was primarily on determining whether the parents of the boy had been negligent in preventing their child from entering the gorilla enclosure. After thorough review, legal authorities concluded that there would be no criminal charges against the boy’s parents. The decision was based on evidence and testimonies that portrayed the incident as a quick and unforeseeable accident.

Simultaneously, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted their own investigations into the zoo’s handling of the situation. The AZA, which sets the accreditation standards for zoos in the United States, reviewed the safety protocols and barrier effectiveness at the Cincinnati Zoo. While the zoo maintained its accreditation, recommendations were made for enhancing barrier security and reviewing emergency response procedures to ensure they prioritize non-lethal measures as much as possible.

Public and Celebrity Reactions

The death of Harambe elicited a wide array of responses from the public and celebrities alike. Many people expressed their sorrow and outrage through social media, creating a massive dialogue about animal rights and human responsibility. Celebrities like Ricky Gervais, Brian May, and Piers Morgan publicly criticized the zoo’s decision to kill Harambe, sparking further debate about the incident. Conversely, figures like Donald Trump defended the zoo’s actions, emphasizing that the zoo staff had likely had no other choice under the circumstances.

The incident also inspired a variety of tributes and memorials for Harambe. Vigils were held in different parts of the world, including a notable candlelight vigil at Hyde Park in London. These events reflected the deep emotional impact Harambe’s death had on many individuals globally and highlighted the broader societal concerns about the treatment of animals in captivity.

Cultural Impact and Reflection

Harambe’s death had a lasting impact on culture, inspiring memes, songs, and artwork that extended far beyond the initial reactions to the incident. This cultural response underscored the complex relationship between humans and animals, highlighting the often anthropomorphic sentiments people hold towards animal figures in captivity. While some of these tributes carried a tone of humor, they also served as a form of critique against the perceived injustices and failures in handling animal welfare and public safety.

The aftermath of Harambe’s death has prompted ongoing discussions about how zoos can improve safety and animal welfare, ensuring that both animals and visitors are protected. The incident serves as a somber reminder of the responsibilities that come with keeping wild animals in public spaces, and it continues to influence policies and perspectives on wildlife conservation and ethical treatment years later.

Child’s RecoveryThe boy was treated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries and returned home a few days later.
Public and Media ReactionThe incident’s video went viral, leading to widespread debate and criticism of the zoo’s safety measures and the decision to use lethal force.
Legal InvestigationThe Cincinnati Police Department investigated the boy’s parents for negligence, concluding with no criminal charges due to the incident being seen as an unforeseeable accident.
Zoo and Regulatory ReviewsThe Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the USDA investigated the zoo, which maintained accreditation but received recommendations to enhance safety and emergency protocols.
Celebrity and Public ResponseCelebrities and public figures expressed varied opinions on the zoo’s actions, sparking further debate on animal rights and human responsibilities.
Tributes and MemorialsVigils and memorials for Harambe were held worldwide, reflecting the significant emotional impact and raising concerns about animal treatment in captivity.
Cultural ImpactHarambe’s death inspired memes, songs, and artwork, contributing to ongoing discussions about animal welfare and zoo safety.

Discussion on Wildlife Captivity and Zoo Safety

Expert Opinions

The tragic death of Harambe has ignited a plethora of insights from primatologists, zookeepers, and wildlife experts. Many specialists have discussed the incident in the context of zoo practices and animal behavior. Primatologists like Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal weighed in, suggesting that Harambe’s actions were likely protective rather than harmful. However, they acknowledged the unpredictability of such situations, especially with a powerful animal like a gorilla.

Experts emphasized the necessity of reassessing enclosure designs and emergency protocols to prevent similar occurrences. They suggested that zoos should implement more robust barriers and clearer, more comprehensive guidelines for emergency responses that prioritize non-lethal outcomes whenever possible.

Debates on the Ethics of Keeping Primates in Captivity

The incident also revitalized debates over the ethics of wildlife captivity, particularly concerning primates, who share significant emotional and social capacities with humans. Critics argue that keeping such intelligent and socially complex animals in enclosures does not adequately address their needs and may lead to behavioral issues that compromise safety. Advocates for zoos argue that they play a crucial role in conservation and education, providing a sanctuary for species threatened by extinction and helping raise public awareness and support for wildlife conservation.

Expert InsightsPrimatologists like Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal commented on Harambe’s behavior as protective, highlighting the complexity and unpredictability of such situations.
Zoo Practices and SafetyExperts called for a reassessment of zoo enclosure designs and emergency protocols, advocating for improvements in barriers and clearer guidelines to ensure non-lethal outcomes.
Ethics of Wildlife CaptivityThe incident rekindled ethical debates about the captivity of primates, emphasizing their emotional and social complexities, and the challenges of meeting their needs in zoo environments.
Role of ZoosWhile critics question the adequacy of zoos for primates, proponents highlight zoos’ contributions to conservation and education, stressing their role in protecting species from extinction.

Lessons and Legacy

Impact on Zoo Safety Standards and Public Awareness

Harambe’s death led to an immediate review of safety standards across zoos worldwide. Many institutions tightened their security measures, revised their emergency protocols, and increased their focus on educational programs about the risks and responsibilities of visiting and maintaining wildlife enclosures. This incident has heightened public awareness about the complexity of animal behavior and the inherent risks involved in wildlife captivity.

Harambe’s Cultural Legacy

Culturally, Harambe became a symbol of various societal issues, reflected in the widespread memes, songs, and artworks created in his honor. These tributes often carried undertones of criticism towards animal treatment and zoo safety but also underscored the deep emotional connection people feel towards animals. This legacy has kept the discussion about zoo practices and animal rights in the public eye, maintaining pressure on zoological institutions to improve and innovate in terms of animal welfare.

Safety Standards ReviewFollowing Harambe’s death, zoos worldwide reviewed and tightened security measures, revised emergency protocols, and enhanced educational efforts about wildlife enclosure safety.
Public AwarenessThe incident increased public awareness about the complexities of animal behavior and the risks associated with wildlife captivity.
Cultural ImpactHarambe became a cultural symbol, inspiring memes, songs, and artworks that often critiqued animal treatment and zoo safety, while also reflecting the strong emotional connections people have with animals.
Zoo Practices and Animal RightsThe ongoing cultural focus on Harambe has kept zoo practices and animal rights in public discussion, urging zoological institutions to continually improve and innovate in animal welfare.

The life and death of Harambe, the western lowland gorilla, have left a profound mark on wildlife conservation and zoo practices. His story highlights the critical challenges of keeping large, intelligent animals in captivity and has sparked essential debates on the ethical implications of such practices. The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo underscored the urgent need for improved safety measures and has led to significant changes in how zoos manage enclosure security and emergency responses.

Furthermore, Harambe’s cultural impact, particularly through memes and public tributes, has helped sustain a dialogue on animal rights and conservation, keeping these issues in the public consciousness. As zoos continue to evolve, the lessons learned from Harambe’s story will undoubtedly influence future generations of zookeepers, conservationists, and the general public in fostering more ethical and sustainable interactions with our planet’s wildlife.