Digital traffic sign in West Campus hacked with message commemorating Harambe

Rhea Adhikary

An electronic road sign near 26 West Apartments was hacked Thursday to commemorate the passing of Harambe, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla whose death sparked controversy when he was shot earlier this year when a child entered its pen.

The flashing message read “Dix out 4 Harambe” and shocked many students walking to class.

“This is hilarious,” mechanical engineering junior Thomas Le said. “Looks like some computer science students put their skills to a real-life application.”

The story of Harambe, a gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, became national news when a three-year-old boy climbed into the gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged around by the male gorilla. In an effort to save the boy’s life, a zoo employee shot and killed Harambe. The event sparked national controversy and an Internet sensation. 

Memes of the event have emerged online, and Harambe has become an Internet phenomenon, even being nominated as a candidate for president in some early polls. Other Internet users have responded by creating conspiracy theories that his death was an inside job or proclaiming him a hero. His posthumous popularity has caused discomfort for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden who after pleading for the memes to stop were encountered with even more Harambe tweets and posts.

“I thought it was really funny, but I know that it’s illegal to tamper with those signs,” said sophomore Jose Alvarez. “It made me smile on my walk to campus though.”

It is unknown who meddled with the display. Hacking these road signs is possible if you can crack the password and know simple programming, but tampering with them is illegal. The sign was reset Friday. 

“We heard about the display and were called to pick up the sign this morning,” said Kevin Johnson, an N-line traffic maintenance worker.

The signs hold a purpose in directing traffic and tampering with them can be dangerous for the public. West Campus has had a road sign hacked before. In February, a traffic sign at 24th and Rio Grande streets was programmed to read, “OU Still Sucks.”