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People Are Sharing This Sketchy Story About A Zoo Naming A Gorilla "Harambe McHarambeface"

Of all the things that never happened, this never happened the most.

Posted on September 13, 2016, at 8:09 a.m. ET

This story on a website called Boston Leader about a Chinese zoo naming a baby gorilla "Harambe McHarambeface" after its online poll was hijacked by American trolls is currently making the rounds online.

The story goes that Jinhua Zoo opened up an online poll to name an infant gorilla — originally named Heijin in Chinese. After the poll was discovered on "social media in the US", the name "Harambe McHarambeface" ended up topping the poll with 73,347 votes. The story goes so far as to quote an anonymous zoo official who told "local media" that they were stunned by the attention and plan to honor the online poll.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of two other stories, one from March, where an online poll to name a research vessel was hijacked by people wanting to name it Boaty McBoatface and another from August, done by the Philadelphia Zoo, where people voted to name a newborn gorilla Harambe.


The Boston Leader story from this week was posted on Reddit’s Uplifting News section and made it to the top of Reddit’s homepage on Tuesday.

The story was also picked up by the Daily Mail and the Metro.

The story is obviously going viral, but there are some major red flags, the first being that almost none of the links on Boston Leader work. Also, the story has no byline. The only active link on the page appears to be this two-sentence story about birds falling from the sky in Boston.

Every other link brings up a "Service Temporarily Unavailable" page. Also, Boston Leader doesn't appear to have a single social media account registered anywhere.

The site's banner says it's been "bringing you Boston's best news since 1932," except, according to WhoIs, the domain was registered four days ago.

Next up, the actual website for the Jinhua Zoo that has apparently been hosting a mega-viral gorilla-naming poll hasn't updated its news section since 2013.

Same with its official page on Chinese social network QQ. The last update was in 2013 about a new red panda.

Not a single Chinese news site is discussing "jinhua heijin gorilla" on Google News.

Google News

If you search "jinhua zoo harambe" on Weibo — China's largest social network — there are no results.


And if you search "Jinhua Zoo gorilla" on Weibo you only get one post, from March 2014.


“A beautiful and sunny weekend at the zoo. Even though I was told before we went that there are no gorillas or elephants at Jinhua Zoo, but once I got there I still had a good time!"

OK, so, there you go. Can we let Harambe rest in peace now?

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.