There is a new Gorilla gorilla gorilla in town.
Three months after the unfortunate death of the Cincinnati Zoo's 400-pound western lowland gorilla, Harambe, a newborn of the same critically endangered subspecies has been born in the Philadelphia Zoo.
This was all fine and good until Wednesday, when the zoo announced it would allow the public to vote on a name for the newborn gorilla.
In the months since Harambe was shot by Cincinnati Zoo officials in an effort to protect a 4-year-old boy who fell into the primate’s enclosure, the deceased gorilla has become somewhat of an internet celebrity.
He is meme-famous in other words, and the Philadelphia Zoo's naming competition gave new life to Harambe-mania.
So many Harambe-inspired names were suggested that the zoo had to update the competition, stating that they will establish a list of suitable name options for the public to choose from.
The newborn's gender remains unknown because its mother has been holding it so tightly since its birth last Friday. The zoo now has six western lowland gorillas, including the baby's parents, Honi and Motuba, and Louis, 17; Kira, 17; and Kuchimba, a 14-year-old who is Honi's son.
Harambe's death caused such an outcry because of the complexity of the circumstances and the extremely unfortunate denouement. The internet was awash with opinions. Some people wanted to blame the parents, some wanted to blame the zookeepers, some laid the blame on the existence of zoos altogether, and others still on humankind's overwhelmingly detrimental impact on our planet's flora and fauna.
In March, several months before Harambe's death, the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas held a baby naming contest for a newborn western lowland gorilla. In those pre-Harambe months, animal naming by public vote was still possible, and the gorilla ended up being called Augustas, which means “great” or “magnificent.”
While an online naming contest worked out on this occasion, they are generally not recommended and often lead to absurd conclusions.
In the interest of pushing the conversation forward around Harambe's death and the naming of the newborn gorilla, here is a list of potentially suitable names:
Yes, naming the baby gorilla Harambe seems reasonable. After all, by all accounts Harambe was an exceptional and beloved gorilla. There's also a lot to learn from his death, ranging from how zoo enclosures are designed to the way other animal's lives are valued. Plus, Harambe just seems like a good gorilla name.
This is a pretty obvious option too, but the other event in the last year or so to really rally the public's attention when it comes to the protection of large animals was the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of an American trophy hunter. Cecil was shot after he wandered out of a sanctuary in a national park. About half a year after Cecil was killed, two breeds of lions gained protection under of the Endangered Species Act, meaning they can no longer be brought back to the United States as trophy kills.
Donkey Kong premiered as an arcade game 35 years ago in 1981 (Also, Harambe was 35 when he was killed). Donkey Kong was a formidable foe for his human opponent, Mario, at whom he frequently lobbed barrels and tirelessly chased. The name could be a sort of homage to the strength and dexterity of western lowland gorillas, who can climb trees and perform other feats of athleticism that allow them to live in the swampy forests of western Africa.
Grauer or Rudolf Grauer:
While western lowland gorillas like Harambe are endangered, they are also by far the most populous gorilla species on the planet, with numbers potentially ranging up to 100,000. Of the four other gorilla subspecies, Grauer's gorilla—the largest primate on the planet—are the most endangered, with possibly fewer then 4,000 remaining in the politically unstable jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. According to conservationists, the gorilla's population maybe have plummeted by as much as 70% over the last 20 years.
Grauer gorillas were named after Rudolf Grauer, the Austrian explorer who fist recognized them as a separate subspecies. They very closely resemble mountain gorillas. The name would be a reminder of the precarious existence facing gorillas living in the wild.
This one would act as a simple reminder that humans and gorillas share 98% of their DNA. That's a lot in common.
Tilikum is a killer whale that lives in Sea World. He was featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which gave the public an inside look at the way animals are treated at the theme park. Tilikum has spent 23 of his estimated 35 years at SeaWorld. Over the course of his time in captivity, he’s been linked to three human deaths, including the headline-making 2010 encounter in which he dragged 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau to her death in front of a live crowd. Now Tilikum is in bad health, and is most likely dying. Naming a gorilla after him could be a good way to perpetuate the memory of Tilikum, and show how the story of one animal can actually lead to real changes in the ways humans treat animals.