Role of the Modern Zoo (KS5)

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.

ZSL Releasing red barbed ants at Chobham Commin

Key Stage: Post-16

Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 35 students


National Curriculum / Specification Links (from September 2015)

AQA Biology

3.7.2 – Populations (A-level only)

  • A population as a group of organisms of the same species occupying a particular space at a particular time that can potentially interbreed.
  • The concepts of gene pool and allele frequency.

3.7.4 – Populations in Ecosystems (A-level only).

  • Show understanding of the need to manage the conflict between human needs and conservation in order to maintain the sustainability of natural resources

Edexcel Biology A

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.

OCR Biology A

4.2.1 – Biodiversity.

  • (e) How genetic biodiversity may be assessed, including calculations.
  • (f)  The factors affecting biodiversity.
  • (h) In-situ and ex-situ methods for maintaining biodiversity.

6.3.2 Populations and sustainability

  • (e) The management of environmental resources and the effects of human activities.


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Gain an understanding of 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


Key words: Conservation, education, ZSL case studies, breeding programmes.


For this session

Before your visit:

  • Visit the website of the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums ( and find out about what this organisation does.

After your visit:

  • Put together an ethics committee in your class. Roles may include: curator, vet, vet nurse, zoo keeper, education manager, marketing manager, press officer, general manager and members of RSPCA. Debate the following and come up with a decision to be put forward: “A lion and a lioness have had four cubs. Two male and two female cubs. The male cubs were put up for donation to other BIAZA zoos, but no zoo were able to take the cubs when they reached maturity. The cubs were reaching the age that in the wild they would leave their natal pride so at the zoo we needed to do something or the male lion would become aggressive towards his cubs. What does the ethics committee suggest the zoo does? “