About The International Conservation Center™

The International Conservation Center™ is a natural extension of the Pittsburgh Zoo's conservation, education, and breeding programs, focusing on the need to house breeding groups of threatened and endangered species, with an emphasis on African Elephants. The International Conservation Center will be a leader in the care and management of African elephants, and further the Pittsburgh Zoo's highly successful elephant program, which aims to improve the level of care and understanding of elephants worldwide.

Pittsburgh Zoo Elephant Care Program

The ICC will enable the Pittsburgh Zoo to play a major leadership role in addressing the needs for breeding the African elephant population in North America. The ICC is the first such facility currently run by an AZA accredited zoo with such a strong emphasis on the African elephant.

Elephant Care Philosophy

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's highly successful methods of elephant management are termed Natural Care. We use positive reinforcement and nurturing to develop a relationship with the animals built on mutual respect and trust. Natural Care including keepers sharing space with the elephants to train, enrich and meet their needs, as well as using protected contact and managing the elephants from the other side of a physical barrier. The method chosen depends on the needs of the elephant.

The Zoo's elephant manager has received world-wide recognition for his successes with this method. Through the use of vocal commands, praise, and food rewards, keepers are able to work with the elephants to accomplish necessary grooming, husbandry, enrichment and veterinary procedures. If they choose not to respond to a command during training or a procedure, the keeper simply leaves the area. The elephants are never physically punished for not cooperating.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium recognizes and respects herd bonds among our elephant herd. We utilize the herd structure as a key component of our elephant management philosophy. When herd dynamics necessitate separation, the herd is separated into smaller groups, always respecting the bonds between mothers and calves; no individual is isolated, always being kept in areas of the barn where they can see, hear or touch the other members of the herd. If an individual is ever isolated, it would be for medical procedures, and even then, they can usually see or hear the group.

Long Term Plan

When bringing different animals to the ICC, we select species in collaboration with Taxon Advisory Groups that identify needs for hands on research and conservation work. The Zoo will lead the international effort to determine the best methods for breeding threatened and endangered species. As such, the second phase of the ICC will expand the Center's focus to other species in critical need. Possible species include cheetahs, Grevy's zebras, African painted dogs, and black rhinos. In identifying species, the Zoo will:

The Somerset Site

Located on 724 acres of secluded rolling hills, the ICC is an ideal location for the care and breeding of animals, and the support services for the people that will work, study, and research there. The site includes 20 paddocks ranging between five and 20 acres, facilities for breeding wildlife, an extensive and well-maintained infrastructure, a secure 10-foot perimeter fence, housing for staff and students, a restaurant, and meeting areas.

Construction / Development Plans

The Zoo will build a multifaceted elephant care and breeding facility that includes housing for up to 20 elephants, including five bulls of various ages including:


The ICC is an extension of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. As such, it is governed by the Board of Directors of the Zoological Society of Pittsburgh. The ICC remains integrated with the Pittsburgh Zoo governance structure in the short- and long-term.