While Harambe died before reaching breeding maturity, there is now a way he can father future generations

By Kelli Bender
Updated June 01, 2016 04:21 PM

As animal lovers mourn the loss of Harambe the endangered silverback western lowland gorilla, scientists are working to find a way for the animal to live on.

According to Cincinnati.com, following Harambe’s tragic death, reproductive biologists from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife extracted viable sperm from the mammal. The center plans to use the sperm in its reproductive programs which include artificial insemination and genetics research.

Shot and killed before he reached breeding maturity, 17-year-old Harambe will now have the opportunity to father future generations of this endangered species.

“There’s a future,” zoo director Thane Maynard said during a press conference Monday. “It’s not the end of his gene pool.”

As part of the Species Survival Program, the zoo helps manage genetic diversity in the 360 gorillas under the program from zoos around the world. The addition of Harambe’s sperm will help ensure that there is enough diversity throughout the protected gorilla population, preventing the occurrence of genetic diseases and abnormalities. The director said the zoo has also been contacted by other scientists about using tissues from Harambe’s remains to help study and prevent genetic issues seen in gorillas.

Healthy zoo gorillas are especially important, since there are only 175,000 western lowland gorillas left in the wild. The Cincinnati Zoo has seen the birth of 50 gorillas, with the most recent being Elle, born in August 2015.