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.

Lynx at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Age group:  A-level (Post-16)

Duration: 60 min                          

Capacity: 35


National Curriculum / Specification Links: 

AQA Environmental Science (2014 onwards)

3.1.2 – Wildlife conservation.

  • The rationale for wildlife conservation.
  • Captive breeding and release programmes.
  • Conservation in the UK and abroad.

Edexcel (2015 onwards)

Topic 4 – Biodiversity and Natural Resources.

  • 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 and education.

OCR Biology A (2015 onwards)

4.2.1 Biodiversity

  • (g) The ecological, economic and aesthetic reasons for maintaining biodiversity.
  • (h) in situ and ex situ methods for maintaining biodiversity.
  • (i) International and local conservation agreements made to protect species and habitats.


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:

  • 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 our Zoo Ethics (KS5) session information pack: PDF icon Pre-visit information pack - Zoo Ethics (KS5) (353.94 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).
Animal Location (map ref.)
Ring-tailed lemur In with the Lemurs
European lynx Wild Wild Whipsnade
Sealion Sealion Splash
Bactrian camel Passage through Asia


Post-visit resources:

  • 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.


Prepare for your Zoo Ethics (KS5) session with our information pack.

PDF icon Pre-visit information pack - Zoo Ethics (KS5) (353.94 KB)