Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The National Aviary on the North Side has received another five years of accreditation from the National Association of Zoos & Aquariums for its high standards of care and conservation of wildlife.

The aviary has been accredited from the organization for the last 30 years. The process took about a year and included a review of fiscal management, animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

Courtesy: Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

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.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Razi, age 6, has idiopathic epilepsy, a neurological disease that causes intermittent seizures. He was diagnosed two years ago and was having about two seizures a year. This summer, though, they started happening monthly.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium officials said Tuesday the facility dropped its membership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums willingly and won’t lose its famed sea turtle rehabilitation program.

The zoo has participated in the Sea Turtle Second Chance program since 2009, taking in several turtles a year and, ideally, releasing them all back into the wild again, according to Zoo President and CEO Barbara Baker. Of the 17 treated in 2015, 13 have been returned, including two newly slated for the North Carolina shore.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A conservationist dedicated to saving African elephants one healthy birth at a time was chosen to receive the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s first-ever Legacy Conservation Award.

Zoo officials will honor Thomas Hildebrandt, head of the reproduction management department at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, in a local ceremony on Thursday.

Flickr user Robert Bratton

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar is advocating that police officers in Zone 5, which includes the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, be trained in animal behavior so they can properly respond to incidents involving dangerous animals.

The proposed agreement would also include training for zoo employees on the use of live firearms and tranquilizer guns.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is defending its use of dogs to help elephant handlers control the animals.

The move comes as the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a USDA inspection report that was critical of the practice. That report noted that the dogs displayed aggressive behavior toward the elephants and that the elephants were subjected to unnecessary anxiety from the encounter.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Fourteen very sick sea turtles are recovering at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium after being stranded on the beaches of New England in what is being described as a “mass cold stunning event.”

The endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are just a few of the more than 900 that washed up on northeastern shores after becoming hypothermic as ocean waters cooled. They arrived in Pittsburgh last Sunday, from the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

After a six-year absence, zebras have returned to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Penny and Spencer grazed and trotted their way around the new African Overlook exhibit for just the third time this morning. The pair of Grant’s zebras will eventually share their habitat with the giraffes, but for now, the animals are taking turns getting used to the environment.

Ken Kaemmerer, the curator of mammals at the zoo, said the animals have taken a liking to their new digs.

90.5 WESA's Michael Lynch

Ajamu, Ramses, Nalah and Zola arrived in the U.S. from Africa more than six months ago, but today, the four young cheetahs made their first public appearance at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The cats moved slowly from their temporary habitat into their new 7,500 square-foot enclosure next to the African Overlook. But within minutes, the world’s fastest land animals showed just how quick they can be, sprinting their way around the new surroundings.

Flickr user Todd Shirley

Heth’s Run Valley hasn’t been much of a valley for a while. The area underneath Heth’s Run bridge—a portion of Butler Street between Morningside and Highland Park—had long been a dumping site for industrial waste. City Councilwoman Deb Gross, whose district includes the area, said many of her constituents didn’t even know a bridge was there.

But that area is slated to get a major facelift, which Gross said has been a long time coming.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

There’s a new bird in Pittsburgh, but instead of being giant and yellow, this one barely weighs two pounds and has a soft black coat of baby down fur.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium welcomed its first-ever macaroni penguin hatchling May 12.

Though it isn’t even a month old, lead aquarist and penguin keeper Katy Wozniak said it has become quite vocal.

A world-renowned cheetah expert and conservationist was in Pittsburgh this weekend, visiting four new cheetahs at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Laurie Marker, the founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund located in Namibia, said she hopes the two females and two males at the zoo will be “educational ambassadors” for her research and conservation efforts.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Galapagos tortoises can live more than 100 years and can weigh up to more than 400 pounds.

The two visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for the summer aren't that old, or that big. The male and female tortoises were born in 1992, and weigh in at 160 and 120 pounds. Both were born in captivity.

“All Galapagos tortoises are highly endangered,” said Ken Kaemmerer, curator of mammals for the zoo. “There’s only about 20,000 left in the wild.”

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium

Valentine’s Day was two weeks ago, but the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium hopes that love is still in the air. Two female polar bears have been flown in from Sea World San Diego to join the zoo’s Koda for mating season.

Polar bears typically mate between March and June, and Zoo officials are hopeful that 9-year old male, Koda, will breed successfully with at least one of  three females.

The two visiting females, Szenja and Snowflake, might have to wait their turn for some attention from Koda as he currently only has eyes for Kobe the zoo’s only resident

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has agreed to pay $4,550 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ending the agency's investigation into the death of a child who was fatally mauled after falling into the wild African Painted dog exhibit.

Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo, said it’s the right time to take the next step.

“Safety is always our top priority,” she said in a written statement. “All of our exhibits meet the highest USDA and AZA standards and we will continue to work with both agencies to ensure those standards are met and exceeded.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

From South Africa to Pittsburgh — four cheetahs are now living at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The animals are considered “genetically valuable” according to Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, the zoo's director of animal health. The goal of acquiring such animals is to ensure that future populations of the endangered cats can continue to be diverse.

Pennsylvania’s Somerset County isn’t exactly the African Savanna, but as many as 20 elephants could be calling it home in the next few years.

The International Conservation Center broke ground Saturday on a 1-acre elephant cow and calf barn, to add to the 724-acre facility.

Pittsburgh Zoo CEO Barbara Baker said the barn will focus on elephant breeding to try and combat the declining population.

A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit in the fatal mauling death of a 2-year-old boy who fell into a wild African dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Zoo attorneys argued a strict liability claim should not go forward, saying there's no "abnormal risk to the public" when people have a chance to view wild animals.

But Allegheny County Judge Paul Lutty agreed with attorneys for the Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh that the risk can't be determined until both sides exchange evidence before trial.

The parents of a 2-year-old boy who was fatally mauled after falling into a wild African dogs exhibit last fall have sued the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, claiming officials had ample warning that parents routinely lifted children onto a rail overlooking the exhibit so they could see better.

The lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh seeks unspecified damages in the Nov. 4 death of their son, Maddox. The boy fell from a wooden railing after his mother lifted him up to get a better look at the painted dogs.