- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) - Construction of an elephant maternal care center for the Pittsburgh zoo is in full swing - and just in time as three elephants could be pregnant.

The new International Conservation Center facility, for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, is located about 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, near Fairhope.

Elephant manager Willie Theison told the (Somerset) Daily American on Thursday that it’s too early to know for sure if they’re pregnant.

“There’s no EPT test for elephants,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement here.”

An ultrasound could be performed eight weeks after conception. Blood work is done between 12 and 14 weeks, and the zoo will test blood samples from the elephants’ ears after Jan. 1.

The zoo bought the 724-acre site in 2006. The $6 million project is designed to create a herd atmosphere for the elephants and is expected to be completed by early 2016. The facility will be 34,000 square feet, with a 16,000 square-foot indoor arena - four times as big as the existing barn for the zoo’s bull, Jackson. It will also have a 26-acre field of open land attached.

The elephants will be able to “play in the mud, eat grass and chase each other” and it’s important for baby elephants to grow up in a herd, Theison said.

The new center will be able to hold up to 15 elephants.


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