By Rachel Woodward, October 4 2016 —
(With files from Justin Quaintance)
A group of University of Calgary students hosted a candlelit vigil at the U of C on Oct. 1 to commemorate the death of Harambe — a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla — who was shot and killed after a three-year old boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28.
The Facebook page “Harambe on UCalgary” organized the vigil, which took place in front of MacHall by a rock painted with the gorilla’s name on it. Attendees brought candles and placed bananas at the base of the rock, which has been decorated with a framed photo of Harambe for the last two weeks.
Harambe is a recent source of internet comedy, evoking memes, music videos and vigils much like the one hosted at the U of C.
On Facebook, over 500 individuals confirmed their attendance for the event. Dozens attended the vigil, with some staying for longer periods of time than others.
First-year political science student Emma Hopper was among those who attended.
“I was curious to see how many people would actually come out and I honestly thought it would be the most ridiculous thing I’d been a part of, so I figured it would be worth it,” Hopper said. “Honestly, I just really feel bad for the Cincinnati Zoo and Harambe because this meme has dragged on far too long and it actually seems super disrespectful to the zoo and to the memory of the poor gorilla.”
Attendees were encouraged to bring nonperishable foods and bananas to be donated to the Calgary Food Bank. Organizers say they raised “at least 50” items to be donated.
“We wanted to give people a chance to come together and commemorate Harambe and appreciate his legacy,” said second-year psychology student Areeba Kabir, who helped organize the event. “I think it’s very important work that’s going on here.”
The U of C is not the only Canadian university to host a Harambe-related event — Ryerson University held a similar vigil with over 100 attendees on Sept. 22.
The Cincinnati Zoo has stated they are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe, which have only grown since the gorilla’s death.
“Our zoo family is still healing and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard in an interview with the Associated Press.