January 29, 2020

Elephant Care at the Zoo

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium would like to thank everyone who has reached out in support after the recent release of the 2019 In Defense of Animals (IDA) list.

This is the annual list that IDA, an extremist animal rights group, publishes every year. Unfortunately, this group targets zoos as a whole. Each year they attack the best zoos in the country without any credible information.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a pioneer in the care, welfare, and conservation of African elephants. Our Animal Care Specialists are dedicated to providing a safe and healthy habitat for our elephant herd at the Zoo and at the International Conservation Center (ICC).

Veterinary Care

Our Animal Care Specialists and Veterinary Team work tirelessly every day to care for our elephants. Our professional teams know these animals best and if they are concerned about an out-of-character behavior, they immediately alert the vet staff.

Positive Reinforcement

The Zoo’s highly successful methods of elephant management utilize positive reinforcement and nurturing to develop a strong, trusting relationship between our Animal Care Specialists and elephants that is built on mutual respect. This philosophy is amplified at the Zoo and the ICC.

Through the use of vocal commands, praise, and food rewards, our professional care team is able to work with the elephants to accomplish necessary grooming, husbandry, enrichment, and veterinary procedures. If an elephant chooses to not respond to a command during training or a procedure, our Animal Care Specialists simply leave the area.

Herd Structure

The Zoo and the ICC recognize and respect herd bonds among our elephants. We utilize the herd structure as a key component of our elephant management philosophy.

IDA is misinformed, with no knowledge of herd dynamics.


The Pittsburgh Zoo’s conservation efforts aren’t just here at home – we have also widened our efforts by partnering and supporting wildlife organizations such as Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) and the International Elephant Foundation (IEF.) In fact, just recently our Elephant Program Manager, Willie Theison, traveled to Zimbabwe to assist the VFWT with efforts to minimize human-elephant conflicts.

Thank you for your continued support of the Zoo!