Biological archive for the scientific community 

We have a huge collection of frozen, wet, and dry biological specimens,  built over several decades. We’ve collected these diverse samples in many ways - through standard pathological investigations, donations of items seized by Border Force, police wildlife crime investigations, and private donations.  

Our biobank programme aims to create a biological archive that is accessible to the scientific community. By opening up the collections, we are seeking to empower the scientific community with greater knowledge, intending that they will be used for innovative research, public engagement and to improve understanding of wildlife forensics.  

Dry collections  

The dry collections include items donated from wildlife crime seizures and private collectors, such as skulls/bone, furs/skins, feathers, eggs, butterflies, taxidermy specimens and traditional medicines. We also keep samples from our Zoos, which allows our animals to continue to contribute to wildlife conservation after passing on. 

Science-led wildlife conservation

Fighting the illegal wildlife trade with science

Contributing to forensic research

Our dry collections play a key role in ground-breaking research which is helping solve wildlife crime.

Combining science and art


Our collections have helped create engagement programmes for conservation science with refugee and asylum seekers.

$23 billion a year criminal industry

Illegal wildlife trade crisis

The biobank directly help us tackle the illegal wildlife trade, which is the fourth biggest illegal activity worldwide, behind only arms, drugs and human trafficking.

Wet collections

Our wet collections consist of tissue samples preserved in fluid, such formalin or ethanol. These samples represent over 50 years of post-mortem examinations performed by ZSL pathologists, vets and IOZ scientists and cover a wide range of species across taxa. Most samples are small cubes of tissue taken for histopathology, the study of disease by examining the structure of cells under a microscope,but we also have a collection of whole tissues, particularly brains and even whole small organisms such as fish and invertebrates. 

The wet collection is complemented by the wax collection, where small dehydrated, formalin-fixed sections are preserved in wax. These blocks are designed so thin slices can be mounted on slides to study disease under a microscope (histopathology). Our wax archive dates back to the 1970s, with slides dating as far back as 1908. 

Collecting vital samples

Humpback whale found in River Thames for CSIP post-mortem investigation led by ZSL
Understanding strandings

Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP)

We collect samplings from whale, seal and shark stranding's across the UK, and we have a collection of over 80,000 samples at ZSL

Frozen collection 

Over decades, staff and students at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology have amassed thousands of samples during the course of fieldwork and research. In addition, samples taken from pathological investigations conducted by our vets are stored for future research that can contribute to the conservation of species in captivity and the wild. 

Frozen samples can be used to generate molecular information that can direct conservation efforts, this data can inform population management of species, conservation translocations, wildlife disease investigations and to confirm taxonomy, as well as contribute to novel scientific research.

By working with industry partners Ziath Azenta Life sciences and in partnership with CryoARKS, EAZA biobank and Nature's Safe we are aiming to make our collections open to the public in the near future

To enquire about our frozen collection please email 

Taxidermy at ZSL
© Steve Knight/Azenta Life Sciences
female scientist at ZSL

Volunteer with us

We regularly recruit volunteers to help us audit and curate specimens and data. 

If you would like to join us, register your interest. 

Science at ZSL

  • Dormouse on a weighing scale at London Zoo, sitting in a plastic container.
    Essential wildlife health monitoring

    Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance

    Our DRAHS team provides essential wildlife health monitoring for conservation projects.

  • mallorcan midwife
    A disease which devastates amphibian populations globally

    Amphibian chytridiomycosis

    For more than 20 years, we've been at the forefront of research on amphibian chytridiomycosis, a disease which has devastated amphibian populations globally.

  • soapbox science display
    Championing female & non-binary scientists

    Soapbox Science

    Soapbox Science brings cutting-edge science to the public on the streets, highlighting the work of some of the best women and non-binary scientists working today.

  • Straw coloured bat hanging beneath a large leaf
    Leading research on viruses found in bats

    Understanding bats and disease

    Bats make up 22% of all mammals, and their unique immune response which enables them to remain healthy despite carrying viruses that would cause serious disease in people and other mammals.

  • sand lizard examination in gloves
    A closer look at sand lizard translocations

    Analysing disease risks during sand lizard translocations

    The sand lizard has disappeared over much of its former range in the UK. Habitat loss and fragmentation are cited as the main factors in the species decline.

  • student_fellow_reading_a_book
    Education and Learning

    Education & Learning

    Our collections are helping inspire and teach the next generation of conservationists.

  • ZSL science & research