Zoo Ethics

In Zoo Ethics students find themselves sitting on a Zoo Ethics Board faced with a real-life dilemma. Discussing this situation from different points of view, students get a fantastic appreciation at the complexity around ethical decision making. Students discover the role ZSL plays in the modern world and how ethics can change with culture, time and perspective.

Age group: KS4

Duration: 45 min

Capacity: 35

National Curriculum / Specification Links:

AQA GCSE Biology

  • B1.8.1 Evolution.
  • B2.7.2 Genetic Variation.
  • B2.7.3 Genetic Disorders.
  • B2.8.1 Old and New Species.

Edexcel GCSE Biology

Unit B1 – Influences on life.

  • Topic 1 – Classification, Variation and Inheritance 1.12, 1.19.

OCR GCSE Biology A

Module B1 – You and your genes.

  • B1.2.2; B1.2.5

Module B3 – Life on Earth.

  • B3.2.3

AQA GCSE Environmental Studies

  • B1 The management of wildlife resources.
  • B1.1 Why is there a need to manage wildlife?
  • B1.2 How is wildlife conserved?


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • List the different areas of ZSL, the ZSL mission statement and goals
  • Work in groups as an ethics committee to decide on a particular zoo related topic
  • List the different people involved in making ethical decisions at a zoo
  • Discuss the different perspectives involved in making decisions in a zoo


For this session

Before your visit to the zoo:

  • Discuss a recent news topic with the students and allow them to debate from different perspectives.
  • Investigate the role ethics plays in modern society – who decides what is right?
  • Download the pre-visit sheet: PDF icon Pre-visit sheet - Zoo ethics (KS4) (537.06 KB) 

While at the Zoo:

  • At each enclosure, discuss in groups, the role that animal plays in the zoo (attraction for visitors, key endangered species, part of a breeding programme, UK endangered species, educational).



Ring-tailed lemur

In with the Lemurs

European lynx


Sea lion

Sea lion Splash

Bactrian camel



After your visit to the zoo:

  • 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 introduce some ethical dilemmas such as breeding, movement of animals, training. This activity will bring together working in groups, social enterprise, social responsibility, career awareness.

Session Resources

Prepare for your Zoo Ethics session with our information pack.

PDF icon Pre-visit sheet Zoo Ethics (KS4) (537.06 KB)