Harambe died just one day after his 17th birthday. On 28 May 2016, the Western lowland gorilla was shot and killed at his home in Cincinnati Zoo. Moments before a single rifle shot ended his life, Harambe had picked up a three-year-old boy who had climbed a fence and fallen into his enclosure. Though there was no sign that he would deliberately harm the child, officials took the decision to act quickly.
This Sunday marks the anniversary of Harambe’s death, and yet his memory has barely even begun to fade. Almost immediately after the killing, Harambe became a posthumous meme and in the last 12 months has been featured in collages, videos, jokes, and even – in the case of the 2016 American election – ballot papers. Figuratively, then, Harambe’s spirit lives on.
Oh, and also literally too.
“Telepathic animal communicators” are individuals with the ability to communicate with animals living or dead. After Cecil the Lion was murdered in July 2015, animal communicator Karen Anderson spoke with him and revealed to VICE that the Southwest African cat was “finer than ever, grander than before”. Inspired by this – and my series Living the Meme, which finds out what happens after people go viral – I got in touch with Harambe.
He is not happy with humans.
Animal communication is a surprisingly saturated market. Yet although I reach out to a few different communicators, I immediately face problems. One – from Kentucky – wants $500 (£391) to speak with Harambe; another has been advised by her lawyer not to talk to animals from zoos after she was sued by a carriage horse association. Another still refuses involvement when I relay that I would like her to ask Harambe for his opinion on the social media trend, “Dicks out for Harambe”.
Pea Horsley, an animal communicator who runs the website www.animalthoughts.com and is the author of The Animal Communicator’s Guide Through Life, Loss and Love, does agree to speak with me – and Harambe. She immediately communicated with the gorilla after his death in 2016, and says she will be able to provide me with his verbatim quotes about how he feels now.
“I used to be a theatre stage manager for 15 years, very successful, and it gave me the training of listening, especially to words,” she explains.
“Which in turn makes me good at listening to the electromagnetic energy which get translated into thought forms. Animal communication is a non-verbal universal language across species. If you read any of my books you’ll be able to see what I mean.”
According to Karen Anderson – the lady who first spoke to Cecil, who is a lion – Harambe was initially very confused about his death. “I had to explain what happened to him several times,” she wrote in a Facebook post at the time. Nearly 365 days later, is he more at peace?
Pea sends me over what Harambe said to her in a Word document, which I have copied verbatim here.
“My message to those who know my name.
I am just like you,”
“If you had been in a cage.
And a baby gorilla fell in.
And a lot of adult gorillas were screaming, shouting, fearful and anxious above…
What would you do? What?
Imagine yourself there.
Just for a minute.”
Harambe explains – via Pea – that he felt threatened, scared, protective, and defensive during the incident. After being shot, he felt “Confused. Let down. Bewildered” but not, Pea relays, angry.
“But no – not angry. More disappointed,” are his words.
More than anything, the gorilla wishes for quiet and family, and is distressed and confused about humanity’s disrespect for “all species”.
“The planet cries,” is his powerful message.
“I feel immense, deep sadness when I observe the world I left behind. I wish life was different. Honourable. Kind. Compassionate. Gentle.
“When will humans start to love again? Love each other? Love themselves? I wish to see this.
“Here, I am peaceful now. I wish to bring in more peace with my message.
“I love you.”
On his meme status, Harambe only has one thing to tell Pea – and he is very humble.
“I am myself. Not special. Not a celebrity.”
Seeking further answers, I reached out to Charles Peden, an animal communicator and psychic medium. Despite his tight schedule, Charles agrees to speak with Harambe and ask specifically how he feels about being a meme. I hope that getting two animal communicators to speak with Harambe in one day is not too bothersome for the gorilla who, after all, deserves peace.
“Harambe does not like the publicity and he has no way to be in peace.”
Charles’s personal assistant relays the results of his communication with Harambe – and it’s bad news for meme fans.
“He is irate and is saddened that they would take his tragedy and turn it into a joke,” she says. Of herself and Charles, she reveals: “We both feel his answer and then some.”
For those who meme, Harambe’s reponse may be disappointing – but his message certainly isn’t. The gorilla in life – and now in death – reminds us all to seek a more peaceful world.
“Living the Meme” is a series of articles exploring what happens to people after they go viral. Check out the rest in the series here.
To suggest an interviewee for Living the Meme, contact Amelia on Twitter.