— Philadelphia Zoo (@phillyzoo) August 31, 2016
PHILADELPHIA – In the excitement of ushering a baby gorilla into the world, Philadelphia Zoo officials made a decision that sent the internet into a frenzy.
They announced a public contest to name the adorable western lowland gorilla – just three months after another gorilla, 17-year-old Harambe, was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 3-year-old boy crawled into his enclosure.
Harambe’s death touched many, but also resulted in the creation of memes that kept the gorilla’s name alive online after his death – growing so large that the Cincinnati Zoo issued a statement condemning the memes.
On Wednesday, Philadelphia Zoo officials had to clarify on social media that they will preselect names and host the contest on the zoo’s website.
Thank you for your support. Once we have chosen names for the baby gorilla, we will let you know so you can cast your vote!
— Philadelphia Zoo (@phillyzoo) September 1, 2016
But that didn’t stop a steady torrent of Harambe and Harambe-related suggestions on Twitter:
Theres gonna be a gorilla naming contest at the Philly Zoo. I am 100% sure Harambe will win, and 100% sure that the baby won't be named that
— Cassiyus the Achaean (@Cassiyus) August 31, 2016
The internet is on fire because the Philly Zoo is having the public name a new baby gorilla. Shouts of Harambe are heard on the streets.
— Paige Southwick Pfleger (@PaigePfleger) September 1, 2016
Several online naming contests involving the public have gone awry recently – a $300 million polar research vessel would have been named Boaty McBoatface if officials hadn’t stepped in.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, decided to go with the contest-winning name for an endangered humpback whale – Mr. Splashy Pants.
In April, an Austin school board decided to pick an elementary school’s new name themselves after a public naming contest produced “Donald J. Trump Elementary” and the “Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance.”
The Philadelphia Zoo kindly thanked the scores of Harambe-supporters on Twitter but are holding off on selecting the names until the contest begins. Whether or not there’s even a chance that Harambe will be a pre-selected option is not clear, but it appears to be the internet’s runaway favorite.
The baby gorilla, who the public saw for the first time Wednesday, was born last week to its 21-year-old mother Honi, and 31-year-old father, Motuba.
The sex is not known yet since Honi has been holding the baby so closely, according to zoo officials.