About the International Conservation Center™, International Elephant Center ™

Pittsburgh Zoo Elephant Care Program

The International Conservation Center™, International Elephant Center ™, or 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.

Elephant Care Philosophy

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's highly successful methods of elephant management uses positive reinforcement and nurturing to develop a relationship with the animals built on mutual respect and trust. Keepers share space with the elephants to meet their training, enrichment, and healthcare needs. Keepers also sometimes manage the elephants from the other side of a physical barrier. The method used depends on the needs and disposition of the elephant. The Zoo's elephant manager has received worldwide recognition for his successes with shared space contact. 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 elephants. 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 see or hear the group.

Long Term Plans

When bringing different animals to the ICC, we will select species in need of 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, and black rhinos. In identifying species, the Zoo will:

  • Research species in need of help and develop criteria for species residing at the ICC.
  • Criteria will be outlined, determining if the facility will provide for the rehabilitation of specific animals, breeding animals, holding animals, etc.
  • Utilize the space at the ICC for species that have been identified as needing acreage for health and reproduction
  • Ensure the long-and short-term health and well being of the individual animals in our care as well as the species they represent
  • Conduct husbandry, behavioral, and reproductive research with the animals in our care
  • Serve as a holding facility for other Zoos that need our help with animals that meet the criteria of the ICC


The ICC is an extension of the Pittsburgh Zoo & 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 term and long term.

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