The main aim of zoos is to protect and conserve global biodiversity and wildlife. To do this they have four roles to play which are; research, conservation, education and welfare.
Research is the careful search or inquiry for new facts by scientific study of a subject, through a course of critical investigation. By studying animals we can learn new things about their behaviour and lifestyle. The Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice (SSSMZP) encourage zoos to carry out research. Research can be carried out ex situ or in situ. In situ conservation is defined as:
The conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the
maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of some domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties.
Ex situ conservation is defined as:
The conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitat.
Conservation is an action that effectively enhances the survival of species and habitats. Zoos can participate in conservation activities of benefit to species in a number of ways. One way in which zoos help conserve animals is by participating in breeding programmes.
The main organisation for breeding programmes is the European Endangered species breeding Programmes (EEP). Each EEP is managed by a species co-ordinator who can recommend that individual animals move to other collections, breed with particular individuals or stop breeding altogether. These decisions are made using information recorded in studbooks for the species held in European breeding programmes