Harambe McHarambeface: Viral Story Claims Chinese Zoo Holds Contest To Name Baby Gorilla, Gets Inundated With Votes For The Cincinnati Zoo’s Martyred Hero

Is Harambe McHarambeface the newest gorilla at a Chinese zoo?

Anyone perusing social media on Tuesday was hit in the face with a story claiming that the Jinhua Zoo held an online contest to name their baby gorilla. The contest was swarmed by fans of the slain gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo, and the tribute to Harambe ended up getting 93 percent of the vote, the story claimed.

But as Gizmodo noted, the story that sounded too good to be true, and indeed, it was too good to be true. The report noted that a number of major international outlets were fooled by the Harambe McHarambeface hoax.

“Did you see that viral story about a zoo in China naming their baby gorilla Harambe McHarambeface? Well, it’s fake. But it fooled plenty of news outlets like The Mirror and The Metro. Because anything involving Harambe, the dead gorilla-turned-meme, is too good to check.”

While these outlets ran with the story that Harambe McHarambeface was picked as the new gorilla’s name, Gizmodo and a handful of other sites did some investigating and found that it originated from a fake news site called The Boston Leader.

There was quite a bit of care put into the Harambe McHarambeface hoax. The original story even went so far as to include fabricated quotes from officials at the fictitious zoo.

“We do hope it will attract more foreign visitors to Jinhua in future,” the report quoted an official who also claimed that Heijin would be used at the gorilla’s Chinese name. “It is nearly impossible to render Harambe McHarambe face in Chinese language, so we hope those who voted will accept that we have decided to give him a different Chinese name.”

The story of Harambe McHarambeface actually borrowed from two viral stories from the past year. It not only took the name of Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla-turned-meme-martyr shot to death after a toddler fell into his enclosure, but the story also took the name of a boat-naming contest gone awry last year.

The British Natural Environmental Research Council had asked people to vote on a name for its new $288 million research vessel. As soon as the internet got a hold of the voting, the name RSS Boaty McBoatface dominated the competition, the Guardian noted.

Though Boaty McBoatface ended up with four times as many votes as any other submission, the NERC decided against choosing it.

“The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world’s iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice and rising sea levels,” said Jo Johnson, the science minister.

“That’s why we want a name that lasts longer than a social media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing. There are many excellent suggestions among the 7,000 names put forward by members of the public and we’ll make a decision as to which one should be put forward for the royal warrant when we’ve had a chance to review them all.”

There was quite a bit of backlash against the NERC, with critics saying they took the boat’s name too seriously and gave up the chance to have any real interest in the important work they are doing.

The story of Harambe McHarambeface appears to have come around a bit in the hours since it first went viral. A number of the news outlets initially fooled by the news of the Chinese zoo’s gorilla naming contest have since realized their error.

The lesson to any zoo, however, is very real. If you hold an online naming contest for a gorilla, and likely any other animal, Harambe McHarambeface is going to run away with the voting.

[Photo by John Minchillo/AP Images]

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