Zoo Genetics

In Zoo Genetics students will discover how animal species have changed over a long period of time through the process of natural selection. Students will be introduced to the science of genetics and will explore how ZSL is using genetic technology to save species from extinction.

Giraffes at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Key Stage: KS3 (11-14 years old)

Duration: 45 minutes

Capacity: 35 students



National Curriculum Links:            

KS3 Biology

Genetics and Evolution

  • Heredity as the process by which genetic information is transmitted from one generation to the next
  • Differences between species
  • The variation between species and between individuals of the same species means some organisms compete more successfully, which can drive natural selection
  • The importance of maintaining biodiversity and the use of gene banks to preserve hereditary material



Intended Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the difference between an anatomical and a behavioural adaptation
  • Recognise that successful variations in animal species are passed on to offspring through the process of natural selection
  • Describe why the zoo needs to track the inheritance of genes for its animals
  • Discuss how human behaviour impacts on animal species

Real objects from the natural world used in this session are on loan from HM Revenue and Customs



For this session

Before your visit:

  • Recap the terms “Adaptations”, “Habitats” and “Evolution”


While at the Zoo:

  • Visit the following fantastic animals at Whipsnade Zoo that link to the content of this session:


Link to session

Location in the zoo


Breeding programmes


African Penguins

Genetic Analysis project

Right of Europe


Natural Selection



After you visit:

  • Identify an animal that you saw at the zoo and describe how it is well adapted to the habitat it would live in in the wild.
  • Create a detailed plan for saving energy at school and at home to limit the impact of climate change on endangered animals.