Harambe: Thousands call for baby gorilla at Philadelphia Zoo to be named after killed primate

Zookeepers clarify rules of naming contest to say public will only get to vote once a shortlist has been decided

Rob Crilly
New York
Thursday 01 September 2016 14:21
Philadelphia Zoo's new baby gorilla needs a name
Philadelphia Zoo's new baby gorilla needs a name

It must have seemed a neat idea: Ask the public to help name the zoo’s newest arrival.

But the infant in question is a gorilla and this is the year of Harambe.

Now Philadelphia Zoo has had to clarify the rules of the contest after being bombarded with thousands of requests that the baby western lowland gorilla be named after the late attraction at Cincinnati Zoo, who was shot dead in May sparking a slew of internet memes.

It’s still early days in the naming business, however. The baby was born just six days ago - the first in the zoo in 20 years - and keepers still have no idea of its sex as it is being cuddled tightly by its 12-year-old mother Honi.

They were introduced to the public on Wednesday.

Andy Baker, the zoo’s chief operating officer, said: “We are very excited to welcome Honi's new baby.

“This birth is an opportunity to engage our visitors in caring about the future of gorillas in the wild.”

Mother and baby will soon rejoin 31-year-old dad Motuba in their enclosure.

In the meantime, the zoo has had to politely explain that the naming will not be a free-for-all. The public will only get to vote once staff have whittled down the possibilities to a handful of suitable candidates.

You can take that to mean “Harambe” will not be on the list.

Harambe lives on in countless other forms, however.

The death of the silverback gorilla - shot after a child fell into its pen at Cincinnati Zoo - sparked an outpouring of anger and grief.

Zoo authorities said they had no choice. But his death has come to symbolise a string of serious causes, from the fate of animals in zoos to police brutality.

At times the calls for justice have morphed into humorous internet memes, with musical mashups, videos and Photoshopped images.

His case was even raised in the US presidential race this week.

Whatever the name, it could still have been worse than Harambe. Apey McApeFace anyone?

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