Zoos and Conservation

Using case studies from ZSL, Zoos and Conservation 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.

Jae Jae the Sumatran Tiger eating at ZSL London Zoo

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

Duration: 50 minutes

Capacity: 60 pupils

Learning Space: Education Centre 


Exam Board specification links:


OCR AS Level Biology (H021)

Module 3: Biodiversity and Evolution

  1. (d) describe the conservation of endangered animal species, both in situ and ex situ, with reference to the advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches
  2. (f) discuss the importance of international cooperation in species conservation


EDEXCEL A Level Biology (9BN0)

Topic 4: Biodiversity and natural resources

  • 4.1 Know that over time the variety of life has become extensive but is now being threatened by human activity.
  • 4.16 Be able to evaluate the methods used by zoos and seed banks in the conservation of endangered species and their genetic diversity (including scientific research, captive breeding programmes, reintroduction programmes and education)


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Understand how zoos work to conserve endangered species through scientific research; captive breeding programmes; reintroduction programmes and education
  • Identify different biological methods that zoos use to help conserve animals and their habitats


For this session


Before your visit:

  • Use this pre-visit information sheet: PDF icon Pre-visit session info_Zoos & Conservation 2015 (393.79 KB)
  • Ask the class to prepare a list of questions to bring to the session to ask the speaker.
  • Ask students to plan a route to take around the Zoo that allows them to see the animals and exhibits that they would like to focus on.


While at the Zoo:

  • Why not conisder allowing your students to participate in a double session and also book Zoo Genetics and Breeding?  Zoo Genetics and Breeding aims to introduce population genetics and looks at why genetic diversity is essential in a healthy population. Using real-life ZSL examples, we look at how genetic drift, the founder effect and genetic bottlenecks affect genetic diversity. We’ll also investigate how zoos manage genetics of captive populations and why it is so crucial for future reintroductions of animals to the wild.
  • Use this pre-visit information sheet and undertake suggested activity onsite at the Zoot: false
  • Make a list of all the different types of people working in the Zoo. Ask staff for their job titles and put these people into groups depending on their role.
  • Observe Zoo Keepers at work in the animal enclosures. Record the number of different types of activity they are involved in, e.g. cleaning, feeding, maintenance, enrichment, etc. Think about how these activities contribute to the care of captive animals.
  • Look at the social groupings of animals in the Zoo. Think about how the zoo staff manage the breeding of animals. Think about how they identify individuals, know their sex and recognise when animals are pregnant.
  • Use Gorilla Kingdom to find out about some of the people involved in the protection and conservation of a species like the Gorilla.


After your visit:

  • How many conservation projects do you know ZSL is involved with? Ask each student to research our conservation work around the world and to identify one project (all different if possible). Ask the students to present a summary of their chosen project to the rest of the group.
  • Students can refer to the information sheet here: PDF icon A Level support booklet (1.67 MB) for more information about ZSL and links to relevant resources.