By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. June 2, 2016: The decision by Cincinnati zoo officials to kill 17-year-old gorilla Harambe to save the life of a four-year-old who crawled into the exhibit last weekend has created an Internet firestorm of outrage, with some calling for the child’s parents to pay! But few knew that the silverback ape actually had a link to Jamaican singer and widow of the late great Robert Nesta Marley, Rita Marley.
In fact, it’s a detail Marley herself may not know about the 450-pound western lowland gorilla.
According to Texas resident Dan Van Coppenolle, he actually named the then baby gorilla Harambe after Rita Marley’s song by the same name.
The song was released in 2003 on the album: “Marley & Friends.”
“Harambe Harambe Rastaman say harambe,” says the chorus. “Harambe Harambe The Higher One say Harambe.”
In Swahili, the word means “pull together.”
Van Coppenolle, writing on CNN.com said he immediately thought of the name after listening to a live recording from a Bob Marley Tribute concert in Central Park of Rita Marley’s song while working out on the treadmill.
Harambe, then a baby gorilla, had just been born in captivity at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas and a naming contest was being held locally.
Van Coppenolle said he felt so inspired by Marley’s song that he decided to use the title to enter the contest in 1999.
“It seemed perfect: an inspiring African name for an endangered species,” he wrote.
He won the naming contest and so began a relationship of visits to see Harambe, the growing gorilla until he moved to Cincinnati, much to the disappointment of Van Coppenolle.
He said he and his family are deeply saddened by Harambe’s killing but insist that Harambe’s name can serve as a lesson for all of us.
“The truth is, human beings have become distant from nature, and increasingly from each other,” he wrote. “But Harambe’s name can be a reminder for all of us to work together, pull together, help each other, share, and care not just for each other, but for all of God’s creations.”
Or as Marley’s own song insists: “And no matter what they do. And no matter what they say. All a Jah Jah children a go Harambe.”