The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium on Friday received its largest single grant ever-- $9 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
The grant supports the expansion of the Zoo’s conservation programs at both the zoo and the International Conservation Center (ICC) in Somerset County, a 742-acre space dedicated to helping endangered and threatened species.
“This will help us expand in our zoo and in our International Conservation Center, our wildlife programs, all of the different animals that we can work with now with this wonderful grant to be able to help wildlife here in the states and also in their native country,” said Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
The grant will help support building a maternal care center at the ICC, which will allow for the continuation of breeding highly endangered species and to have female elephants and their calves live in natural herd settings due to the center’s larger space, according to Baker.
The ICC is expecting to add new species to the space within the next few years which could include cheetahs, zebras, and black rhinos, according to Baker.
The zoo started expanding this past spring, with the Island Exhibit which opened in June.
“We’re looking to actually finish the landscape of the zoo. There’s actually six acres of the zoo that were not being used. So now we’re going to be able to continue to expand that.”
Baker says they are planning to add exhibits in the area over the course of the next four to five years. The grant supports the zoo expansion in four different areas, the first being the Island Exhibit, and the other three being announced sometime in the upcoming weeks.
“[We will] bring on new wildlife to educate people about the conservation efforts with those wildlife and hopefully spark conservation initiatives in people worldwide,” said Baker.
Baker said the grant ultimately allows for the addition of new wildlife programs and conservation initiatives both on and off the zoo’s 77-acre campus, furthering customer experience.
“Our visitors will learn about these wonderful wildlife right here at the zoo but also to have them have the ability to continue to visit outside of the zoo so they can look up and learn more about the animals and correlate that to what we’re doing here at the zoo and in the wild,” she said.
Baker said the zoo plans to formally announce its expansion plans in the upcoming weeks and visitors can expect to see a new exhibit in May.