4.1 Evolution of Zoos

EAZA defines a zoo as any permanent establishment where living wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public for seven or more days a year, with or without an admission charge. A zoo may be a charity or operate in the public or private sector. As well as conventional zoological gardens, this encompasses aquariums, safari parks, bird gardens, birds of prey centres, reptile and amphibian centres, butterfly or bug houses and some animal sanctuaries. The 19th century saw a great growth in zoological gardens being opened to the public to display exotic animals for public education and entertainment, however since the mid-20th century zoos have become increasingly focused on biodiversity conservation and are now complex operations covering a variety of disciplines such as animal husbandry, education, field conservation and research. It is important that keepers are aware of the core functions of modern zoos and understand how this role has developed over time, in order that they maximise the contribution they make to achieving the conservation, education and research goals of the zoo sector. In particular, zookeepers are required to demonstrate competencies in two areas:

  • History of Zoos: zookeepers demonstrate awareness of how the role of zoos has evolved over time.
  • The Current Role of a Modern Zoo: zookeepers can describe the key roles of a modern zoo and demonstrate how their role as a keeper can contribute to achieving those roles.
Zookeepers working at Competent level can: Zookeepers working at Proficient level can: Zookeepers working at Expert level can:
4.1.1 History of Zoos Describe the basic stages in the development of zoos in Europe Describe the history and, if applicable, the changing role of their own collection Describe how zoos have developed globally and how they have changed over time
4.1.2 The Current Role of a Modern Zoo Define the term ‘zoo’
Describe the core functions of a modern European zoo
Identify the types of animal collections that can be described under the heading ‘zoo’
Describe how their institution fulfils the different aspects of the role of a modern zoo Provide evidence of how they have contributed to the education, conservation and research roles of the zoo
Describe how their collection is contributing to raising public awareness of sustainability, behaviour change and species conservation in visitors


  • EAZA Strategic Plan 2017-2020 – EAZA
  • WAZA Conservation Strategy: Committing to ConservationWAZA
  • The Modern Zoo: Foundations for Management and Development – EAZA

Paths to fulfilment

Last updated: 14/12/2017