It’s easy to be mesmerized by our elephants, especially when the little ones are playing out in the yard or the big ones are getting a bath. It’s an unforgettable experience seeing elephants up-close, their size alone being breathtaking. But in the next 40 years there will be fewer and fewer chances to get up-close with elephants in North America and around the world. The Zoo population in the U.S. is aging and losing genetic diversity, while elephants in Africa are disappearing because of illegal hunting and habitat destruction. In order to conserve these massive, unique animals, the Zoo collaborates with other organizations around the world to conduct research and ensure that the population remains stable or even grows. We also have developed our own innovative breeding program that has led to multiple elephant births in the last 13 years.
We work with organizations and other Zoos all around the world to research and conserve African elephants. In 2006 we formalized a partnership with the Institute for Zoological and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, Germany. Several of the doctors who head the IZW serve as reproductive consultants to the Pittsburgh Zoo and have worked together to base their research at the International Conservation Center (ICC), a 724-acre space for elephants in Somerset County, PA. Through this partnership, scientists at both the IZW and the Pittsburgh Zoo work collectively in elephants’ natural habitat to refine the breeding process in North America, specifically at the ICC.
We have also developed a partnership dubbed a sister zoo with ZooWuppertal in Wuppertal, Germany. Through this ten-year relationship we have assisted each other with the births of multiple calves, exchanged keepers, attended conferences and workshops, and assisted with the purchase of important equipment. ZooWuppertal has developed the strongest African elephant programs in Europe, so through our partnership we have also begun assisting other zoos in Europe and working with the elephant team at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, South Africa.
We value research in many forms, even outside of our own efforts. We have supported the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) in its scientific research efforts since 2009. Barbara Baker, President and CEO of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, serves on the IEF board. We contribute to IEF annually, and through our support the IEF has funded projects like Save the Elephants, My Elephant Neighbor, and multiple anti-poaching efforts.
At the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Through the research we have conducted in the field in conjunction with many other organizations, we have successfully bred four calves since 1999. Victoria, our calf born in 1999, was the first African elephant born in North America since 1985. The following year, we welcomed a boy, Callee, and in July 2008 two different females gave birth to girls, Angeline and Zuri. These elephants are very important to the overall population. They are helping to increase the genetic diversity of elephants in North America, and will greatly contribute to education and conservation efforts here at the Pittsburgh Zoo and abroad.
Come visit our elephants in the African Savannah habitat. Whether they’re playing in the water outside or relaxing in their barn, you will always have an opportunity to be amazed by these wonderful animals.