By Beth Armer
HUNDREDS OF people are set to attend a candlelit vigil in Leeds on Friday in memory of the gorilla Harambe who was shot dead in the US after a young child climbed into his zoo enclosure.
The death of the gorilla in May at Cincinnati Zoo has sparked a huge international debate about whether wild animals should be kept in captivity.
Leeds entrepreneur Matthew Walker, 25, decided to organise the event after seeing publicity for a similar one in Durham on October 22.
Matthew, designer of card-based drinking game Precarious, said: “I really enjoy random community driven events, there is something great about bringing like-minded people together.
“Events like this naturally raise awareness for animal rights in general, they might only have a small impact, but speaking from my own personal experience, working to arrange this event has definitely made me more aware and interested in animal rights.”
He set up a Facebook page for the event which takes place this Friday (October 28) between 7 and 8pm outside Leeds Art Gallery. People are encouraged to bring a candle to light.
More than 1,300 attendees have been confirmed on Facebook with a further 1,800 saying they are interested in attending.
The event is expected to attract animal rights activists and people just wanting to commemorate Harambe. The event will be followed by ‘Drink for Harambe’ at Shooters Bar, Leeds, with 20% off certain products for those dressed in Harambe clothing.
Elisa Allen, director at animal charity PETA UK, urged people to support organisations that help gorillas in the wild. She said: “Harambe’s miserable life and senseless death continue to resonate with compassionate people around the world.
“The best action anyone who wants to help gorillas can take is to donate to programmes that protect them in their native habitats and to stay well away from zoos and other facilities that incarcerate animals in the name of human entertainment.”
On October 13 a gorilla from London Zoo escaped its enclosure and was safely tranquilised.
Matthew said: “They showed how to handle that sort of situation peacefully.”
Harambe was fatally shot by zoo staff when a four-year-old child fell into his enclosure and was dragged around by the gorilla.
Cincinnati Zoo said on its website: “Shooting Harambe with a tranquilizer was not an option. Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger.
“On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.”