The Philadelphia Zoo's three African elephants are headed for residency at the Pittsburgh Zoo's International Conservation Center in southwestern Pennsylvania, local zoo officials announced today.

Earlier this year, the three elephants - Petal, 51; Kallie, 24; and Bette, 23 - had been scheduled for relocation at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which backed out of the deal in March, citing financial difficulties.

The Pittsburgh Zoo has four adult elephants, with two calves born in the last eight years and two more on the way. The Philadelphia elephants are expected to move to the Pittsburgh Zoo's conservation center, in Somerset County, in the fall.

Philadelphia Zoo officials called the move a breeding loan and said that if Kallie and Bette are successfully bred, they would like to bring them and their calves back to Philadelphia and establish a world-class elephant exhibit here.

In 2005, the Philadelphia Zoo decided not to build a new savanna for its four elephants and to close its elephant exhibit. The zoo's fourth elephant, a 42-year-old Asian named Dulary, is scheduled to be relocated next week to the Elephant Sanctuary in rural Tennessee.

Contact staff writer Julie Stoiber at 215-854-2468 or jstoiber@phillynews.com.