Role of the Modern Zoo

So what role does a zoo play in conservation of a species? Find out what’s happening behind the scenes at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, from breeding programmes for endangered species to research and animal care. This session aims to help pupils understand what they see around them at the zoo, to consider their own opinions about zoos, and discover the role zoos play in the conservation of endangered species.  We will explore what makes a zoo enclosure appropriate for a specific animal, and students will have the chance to design their own zoo enclosure in groups.


Age group:  Years 7 – 11 (KS 3 and 4 – Ages 11 – 16)

Duration: 45 min

Capacity: 35

Learning Space: Griffin or Unicorn Room  

Intended learning outcomes:

  • Students will examine their own feelings about zoos and conservation.
  • Students will understand that Whipsnade Zoo is part of ZSL, a charity helping endangered animals.
  • Students will identify the different stages that exist between Least Concern and Extinct for animals in the wild
  • Students will be able to design an appropriate enclosure for an animal, and interpret why an enclosure is suitable or unsuitable for its species.


For this session

Before your visit:

  • Students to research websites of different zoos in different countries – are there any similarities, themes running through.
  • Get the students to reflect on why are there zoos in the world? How do students feel about zoos? Peoples past experiences of zoos.
  • Research ZSL and the different branches of the charity [ZSL London Zoo, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Institute of Zoology, Conservation Projects]


While at the Zoo:

  • Discuss the IUCN red list status at each of the enclosures and find out about the conservation efforts ZSL is involved in.


Post-visit resources:

  • Set up your own virtual zoo – Students will have different roles, eg Keeping staff, curator, marketing, retail, vet, development (linking with funders), education, presenters, finance, gardening, building. Within these roles, students will have to research what animals they are going to have in the zoo and why (are they endangered, will they bring money in). Set a budget and see how they get on. This activity will bring together working in groups, social enterprise, social responsibility, career awareness