The African elephant is threatened throughout its range and in danger of becoming extinct in some regions. Surprisingly, North America is one of these regions. The breeding population of elephants is aging and there is the real prospect of African elephants disappearing from the United States within the next 40 years.
Elephants at the Zoo
One of the major conservation goals of the Pittsburgh Zoo is to reverse this trend. We have developed an innovative breeding program that takes into account the genetics, physiology, and social behavior of elephants.
In 1999, Moja gave birth to Victoria, the first African elephant baby to be born and survive in North America since 1985. Vic soon had a playmate, her half-brother Callee, who was born to Savannah the next year. Nan and Moja became pregnant again and delivered their calves, Angeline and Zuri (above), in July of 2008. To accommodate our growing elephant family, we have added an elephant family room to our area.
One of the reasons for our success is research into the factors affecting elephant reproduction, conducted in collaboration with many institutions, including the Indianapolis Zoo, and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.
We partner with several zoos and research facilities from around the in in Project Frozen Dumbo, an effort to introduce new bloodlines into the North American elephant gene pool through artificial insemination.
The Zoo's research and conservation efforts are also embodied in the International Conservation Center, 724-acres of rolling hills in Somerset County. It is the only center of its kind in the United States that is associated with an Association of Zoos and Aquarium-accredited institution. Currently, the International Conservation Center is home to five elephants -- three females that were rescued from Botswana; Bette, a female from the Philadelphia Zoo; and Jackson, our male.