What Zoos Do

What do zoos really do, and why? Find out what’s happening behind the scenes at ZSL London Zoo, from breeding endangered species to caring for a huge variety of animals. What Zoos Do 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.

What Zoos Do education session

Age group:  Years 7-11 (KS3 & 4, Ages 11-16)

Duration: 35-45 minutes

Capacity: 35 students

Learning Space: Activity Den


National Curriculum links:


KS3 English - programme of study (2014)

Spoken English

  • Speak confidently and effectively in a range of formal and informal contexts, including classroom discussion.
  • Giving short speeches and presentations, expressing their own ideas and keeping to the point
  • Participating in formal debates and structured discussions, summarising and/or building on what has been said


KS3 Science - programme of study (2014)


Relationships in an ecosystem

  • How organisms affect, and are affected by, their environment, including the accumulation of toxic materials.

Genetics and Evolution

  • The importance of maintaining biodiversity and the use of gene banks to presernve hereditary material.


GCSE Exam Board Specification links:



AQA Biology & AQA Science A

B1.4.1 Adaptations

a) To survive and reproduce, organisms require a supply of materials from their surroundings and the other living organisms there.

c) Animals often compete with each other for food, mates and territory.



OCR GCSE Biology A

3.4.3 Module B3:  Life on Earth

B3.3.5. understand why biodiversity is important for the future development of food crops and medicines

B3.3.6. understand that the rate of extinction of species is increasing and why this is likely to be due to human activity

B3.3.7. understand that maintaining biodiversity to ensure the conservation of different species is one of the keys to sustainability



Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Examine and consider their own feelings about zoos
  • Gain an understanding that London Zoo is part of ZSL, a charity helping endangered animals
  • 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:


While at the Zoo:

  • Use this What Zoos Do pre-visit information sheet and undertake the suggested activities in the Zoo: PDF icon Pre-visit session info - What Zoos Do 2015 (606.36 KB)
  • Visit Gorilla Kingdom.  Consider how the enclosure has been designed to provide a suitable environment for gorillas.  How many gorillas are in this enclosure?  Could it accommodate more?
  • Visit the Penguin Beach area.  What makes this enclosure good for visitors as well as animals?  What might a visitor learn about here?
  • Visit the Galapagos tortoises and use the Tortoise Trackers resource: PDF icon KS3 Tortoise Trackers at ZSL (1.13 MB)


After your visit:

  • Ask pupils in groups to choose a species of animal and design a zoo enclosure for it, perhaps using materials to make a 3D model of their design. Think about how much space the animal needs, what sort of food it would eat and how many individuals would live together. How could you make sure the visitors also had a good experience?