Harambe the Gorilla might have met a tragic demise, but thanks to science, the majestic animal’s gene pool will not be wiped out.
According to the Mirror, moments after Harambe succumbed to a gunshot wound, reproductive biologists from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife collected genetic samples of the endangered gorilla.
The harvested semen, which will be kept frozen until such time as it may be needed, could be used by scientists to produce Harambe’s future children through the process of artificial insemination. While that might not be something that would make his death any less tragic, it will at least go some way in helping animal lovers get over the magnificent animal’s untimely demise.
Speaking to Cincinnati.com, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Director Thane Maynard confirmed the news that biologists had collected Harambe the Gorilla’s genetic samples, pointing out that a future is still possible.
“There’s a future. It’s not the end of his gene pool.”
— Kaley Cuoco (@Cuoco) May 31, 2016
Western Lowland gorillas are an endangered species, with only 175,000 of them left in the world. According to Animal Corner, they are almost exclusively found in the tropical rainforests spread across six countries in west equatorial Africa, which include southeast Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.
Although Western Lowland gorillas held in captivity generally begin mating when they are about 15 years of age, reports suggest that 17-year-old Harambe had not started breeding yet. Born in captivity in Texas, Harambe was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo to be part of a breeding program to repopulate the species, reports Opposing Views.
According to scientists, it was all the more imperative for this reason that zoo authorities collected his semen to preserve Harambe’s gene pool from getting extinct.
— Darcey (@DarceyCroft) May 31, 2016
Meanwhile, the two female gorillas that lived in the same enclosure as Harambe have had a tough time dealing with his sudden disappearance. CBS News reported that the two female gorillas have been seen fruitlessly searching the enclosure for Harambe ever since his body was taken away.
Female gorillas are known to be dependent on their male counterparts to resolve occasional squabbles and also to act as the group’s peacekeeper, and biologists remarked that it would be difficult for Cincinnati Zoo officials to now take care of the remaining two gorillas in the absence of Harambe.
Cincinnati Zoo officials say the two other female gorillas in Harambe’s exhibit have been looking for him. — @jamieyuccas
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 31, 2016
The manner of Harambe’s death has sparked a social media debate on the responsibility of the parents and the zoo authorities in precipitating the troubling episode, with CNN now reporting that the police are investigating the role of the parents in the tragedy.
While zoo staff members and even eyewitnesses have maintained that there was no other recourse available to the authorities than to kill the gorilla, several others, including wildlife conservationist Ian Redmond, have argued that killing Harambe should have been the last resort. Redmond, writing in the Guardian, pointed out that there could have been other outcomes of the incident, reminding readers that Western Lowland gorillas are essentially non-aggressive beings and that in all his years of experience of working with them, he had never been hurt even once by them.
“I agree with the zoo director who felt a tranquilizer dart gun, which delivers a painful jab in the behind, could have startled Harambe and in the time it would take to have an effect, might have put the child at greater risk. Gorillas have a reasoning mind, however, and if someone known and trusted by Harambe had tried to calm him, perhaps offering something that would immediately attract his attention such as a tray of his favourite fruits, a negotiated settlement might have been possible (all the while with the marksman in position to shoot if necessary). Perhaps this was tried, but there has been no mention of it.”
We might never know if Harambe the Gorilla could have been saved, but because biologists collected his genetic samples, he will at least not be the last of his family to have lived on earth.
[Image via Shutterstock]