Harambe’s Code


What a good looking boy. This is Harambe – a Western lowland silverback gorilla who, as most of you probably know by now, was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4 year-old boy climbed/fell into the gorilla enclosure on Saturday. Harambe had just turned 17.

There’s already enough information circulating the internet about this whole ordeal, not to mention footage of Harambe and the boy, so I don’t need to regurgitate any of that. I’m not even someone who gets overly emotional about humans screwing with innocent animals (although I’m completely against it). But for whatever reason, Harambe’s story really got to me; and I feel like the only positive way to deal with this situation is to look at the lesson we can take away from it.

Oh, and to cover all my bases… this has nothing to do with valuing an animal’s life above that of a human’s. In fact, I’ve gotten myself into debt by donating to refugees and the American homeless, because I believe that my “struggle” is still more privileged than theirs. Moving on…

We can all go on and on about how the mom should have been looking after her kid, especially in a zoo setting. (Also, the child stated beforehand that he wanted to climb into the gorilla habitat.) But the fact that this was much more than an “oopsie” moment, as the boy had to crawl and climb past several barriers, is besides the point. The final straw for me was seeing the blatant lack of remorse and accountability from the mom’s Facebook page, as well as the statement released to the public. I won’t lie – I was floored by the level of narcissism and entitlement, as I tend to expect more from my fellow humans.

So, what is this “Harambe’s Code” I’m referring to? I’d like to think of Harambe’s Code as one word: accountability. We, as humans, have the gift of looking back on our actions and learning from our past mistakes. Unfortunately, too many of us use that privilege to excuse our misdemeanors and let our pride lead us in defending our ridiculous actions. This is all because of our flawed logic in thinking that the admission of our shortcomings is a weakness when, in fact, acknowledging our faults and learning from them is a strength.

I’m not sure what it’s going to take for people to be comfortable in admitting their shortcomings, but all I can hope is that Harambe’s story can be used as an example – because if we try to downplay our faults (like this mom has), then it only makes things worse. Do I think she should have her kids taken away from her? No. Do I agree with the threats of violence against the family? Absolutely not. But trying to gloss over the incident rather than stepping up and owning her mistake is what infuriates the public further.

One of the saddest aspects of Harambe’s story was seeing posts from the woman who raised him at a zoo in Texas, before he was transported to the Cincinnati Zoo for breeding. Harambe was her baby – something any dog owner should be able to relate to. Harambe was born into captivity and raised around humans; he trusted them. And this is what he got in return? The whole argument with zoos is that they’re supposed to breed and rear animals on the brink of extinction, so it’s that much more heartbreaking that Harambe was taken out by the humans he trusted.

Personally, I believe the parents should be held accountable and face the fine of replacing such a valued and endangered member of the zoo. But since this country has built a culture around enabling and excusing careless behavior, I’m not getting my hopes up. And to reiterate my point, this isn’t about “some gorilla” – it’s about the fact that we all need to take ownership of our misdoings and consciously learn from our faults. We can’t bring Harambe back, but if we use his story to take a look inside and take accountability for our actions, then at least his death won’t have been in vain.

I was thinking of posting the video of Harambe and the kid who fell into his habitat, but honestly, I feel like acknowledging that family any further would cheapen his legacy. He should never have had any direct association with that boy. So instead, I’ll leave you with some of the last footage taken of him. All you have to do is look into those eyes, and you’ll get it.

Rest in love, beautiful Harambe.

Main Image: WCPO Cinncinnati