Study Day – Role of the Zoo

Using case studies from ZSL, Role of the modern zoo helps students to understand how zoos work to conserve endangered species; from captive breeding and reintroduction programmes, to science and education. This session gives students the opportunity to find out about and discuss the role of zoos in the 21st century.


Age group:  Post-16 (Ages 16-18, AS/A Level)

Duration: 2 x 45min sessions

Capacity: 60 pupils

Learning Space: Griffin Room

National Curriculum links:

  • Edexcel Unit 2.4 – 17 Discuss and evaluate the methods used by zoos in the conservation of endangered species and their genetic diversity
  • OCR Module 3 (2.3.4) (d) describe the conservation of endangered animal species, both in situ and ex situ. (f) discuss the importance of international cooperation in species conservation.

Intended learning outcomes:

  • Students will understand how zoos work to conserve endangered species through scientific research; captive breeding programmes; reintroduction programmes and education.
  • Students will identify different biological methods that zoos use to help conserve animals and their habitats


For this session

Pre-visit resources:

  • Research ZSL and it’s different branches [ZSL London Zoo, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Institute of Zoology and Conservation Projects]
  • Research  EAZA (European Aquaria and Zoo Association)

While at the Zoo:

  • Make sure you visit the following enclosures and discuss with the students the IUCN redlist rating listed. Should zoos be conserving these animals?
Animal  IUCN red list status Location (map ref.)
Asian rhino Vulnerable Asian rhino (A4)
Simitar horner oryx Extinct in the wild Africa (C2)
Pygmy hippo Endandered Hippos (B1)
Amur tiger Endangered Tigers (B3)
Cheetah Vulnerable Cheetah Rock (B2)


  • 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