It’s now been five years since the world lost Harambe, and a popular photo of the internet-famous gorilla will be sold as an NFT in his honor. On one unfortunate day at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016, a three-year-old boy climbed into the gorilla’s enclosure. In an incident recorded on video, the animal was shot dead by zoo officials concerned for the child’s safety. The death of the primate, who had just celebrated his 17th birthday the day prior, made national news and instantly turned Harambe into an internet phenomenon.
Harambe’s official photographer, Jeff McCurry, is said to have taken thousands of photos of the iconic gorilla over the course of 14 months. The photo he will have auctioned off as an NFT was taken on the day they met, which was also Harambe’s first day on exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. It’s also the photo that was used for endless memes created about the incident, and according to the auction’s organizers, it’s been shared online more than five billion times.
“I considered Harambe a true friend,” McCurry said, via BBC. “My many hours spent with him were always special and intimate. While I will never stop taking photos as long as I live, I know I’ll never find a better subject that means as much to me as Harambe.”
An NFT (non-fungible token) is basically like a certificate to say that you own something digital. In other words, original versions of things like memes, viral videos, tweets, and various types of digital files can be sold as art. It’s like owning the original painting as opposed to a print or recopy, but with digital assets. The door is wide open for what can be sold this way, which includes Kevin Smith’s plans to auction off his upcoming horror movie Killroy Was Here as an NFT. The famous Disaster Girl meme and the Charlie Bit My Finger video have also been auctioned as high-priced NFTs.
For whatever reason, Harambe’s death struck a chord with people all around the world as well. Animal rights activists held vigils to honor the late gorilla, and his shooting drew criticism from celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Piers Morgan. Famed primatologist Jane Goodall said that it looked like Harambe was trying to protect the child in his enclosure. However, Goodall came to support the decision of the zoo to kill Harambe, noting that “when people come into contact with wild animals, life and death decisions sometimes have to be made.”
Harambe also became the subject of nonstop viral internet memes which have persisted for years. He was consistently listed as one of that year’s saddest celebrity deaths alongside other legends like Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, and Muhammad Ali. Along with the memes, there were songs, videos, and other tributes made for Harambe, and hashtags like #RIPHarambe and #JusticeForHarambe trended often after his death.
Remembering the passing of Harambe five years later, there are many who’ve taken to social media to post a variety of memes. You can find what seems to be a never-ending stream of them on Twitter. Rest in peace, Harambe. This news comes to us from BBC News.