ZSL200

A world where wildlife thrives

Getting set for the next century

The challenges facing wildlife are increasing: the rate of extinction is accelerating through habitat loss, disease, pollution and other human effects.
We need to act now to address these challenges and stop wild animals going extinct.

These threats and the need to address them are recognised by the United Nations through their 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals provide a blueprint to enable all of us to support a better and more sustainable future and a framework for shared action. ZSL can play an important role by supporting the Sustainable Development Goals relating to life on land, life below water, as well as supporting other goals, including climate action, clean water and health and wellbeing.

In 2026, ZSL will be 200 years old, marking two centuries of discovery, pioneering and inspiring and delighting visitors through science, conservation and our two Zoos.

ZSL was established for the advancement of zoology through science and, with our firm legacy of conservation, research and animal care, we are in a distinct and enviable position.

We use science to ask the questions and develop solutions; we put conservationists in the field to apply our knowledge; and we have two Zoos that engage the public with wildlife and contribute to our breeding programmes for threatened species, conservation and science.

We need to focus our efforts and operations in order to work in a more integrated way, with science informing our work in the field and using our Zoos as a focus to drive engagement. This will amplify our impact.

This will mean that people – including our colleagues, volunteers, partners and visitors – know exactly what ZSL is about and how we can all work together to create a world where wildlife thrives.

Introduction from our Director General

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Our vision and purpose

Our vision is a world where wildlife thrives.

We will achieve our vision by addressing three key conservation challenges to focus our efforts for the future.
These are based on our scientific research into the biggest conservation challenges facing wildlife and are areas where all aspects of our work can contribute to achieving results.

Our purpose is to inspire, inform and empower people to stop wild animals going extinct.

In order to tackle the threats and challenges facing wild animals now, and help people achieve positive change, we will:

  • Inspire future generations through amazing experiences with wild animals, giving them a lifelong connection to wildlife and showing the part that they can play in wildlife conservation.
  • Inform the world about the challenges facing wildlife and the ways we all can address these, based on our scientific research, experience and expertise.
  • Empower communities, leaders and influencers by giving them the methods, evidence, tools and skills to enable people and wildlife to thrive together.

ZSL 200: our strategy

a world where wildlife thrives

The centre of the circle shows our vision for what we aim to achieve in the world
The next ring shows the challenges to address and priority areas where we will focus our activity
Then we explain how we will work
And finally on the outer circle we describe our purpose and who we’ll work with to achieve our vision

Implementing our Strategy

Our organisation

The structure of our organisation reflects our delivery priorities, with teams focused on:

  • Science: developing and sharing solutions to global conservation challenges.
  • Conservation: transforming conservation outcomes on the ground
    and influencing policy debate and decisions to change the rules in favour
    of wildlife.
  • Zoos and engagement: inspiring, informing and empowering leaders, influencers and participants about wildlife through our Zoos and through public, media and policy influence.
  • Fundraising: building relationships that inspire, influence and engage people to protect wildlife and financially support ZSL.
  • Human resources: including learning, development and volunteers.
  • Finance and business services: including IT, estates, health and safety.

Implementation plans

The following describe our plans around our Zoos, our science and our overseas networks.
These are part of a range of plans to implement our strategy and get us fit for the future.

Comprehensive master planning for our sites will provide a long term view and contribute to financial robustness.

A new engagement plan will transform ZSL into a more outward-facing society with engagement, learning partnerships, policy influence and collaboration at the heart of our approach. As part of this, we will tell amazing stories in our Zoos, inspired by our expertise and science to bring our work to life.

We will inspire the world, through our commitment to act sustainably in all we do, through our supply chain, our partnerships and our own consumption and operation.

Through our ten-year business plan, we will create a more diversified business model, working with our donors and supporters in the UK and globally to increase the impact we can have. Our governance and processes will ensure accountability and transparency.

Our people and culture plan will ensure we are fit for the future and will develop our colleagues and volunteers to play their part in a great ZSL team.

Our Zoos

inspiring visitors through fun and wonder

Our Zoos will be the focus of engagement, providing fun, inspiration and learning, while supporting our science and conservation.

Our expertise in animal welfare and care is integral to ZSL, and we will continue to lead, develop and share good practice with zoos and animal organisations around the world, through direct species conservation, contributing to breeding programmes and wider collaboration.

Our new systematic approach to species planning will give clarity and confidence about why every animal is here in our Zoos.

Our Zoos will be at the forefront of zoo innovation, as ZSL has been for the past 200 years, collaborating with other collections and leading the way in new approaches.

Our Zoos will be shared spaces of wonder where people and wildlife thrive together.

Our Zoos have a positive purpose – they provide a feel-good day out that put real animals at the heart of the experience. We will provide amazing spaces and immersive experiences that will enable people to feel closer and more connected to wildlife and we will share our love of animals in a fun and engaging way.

  • At ZSL London Zoo, we will create an experience that is both immersive and international – offering visitors the chance to get as close and connected to animals as possible in the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant capital cities.
  • At ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, we will create a destination for an adventurous day out–giving visitors authentic ways to get close to wildlife and explore the wonder of the natural world.

New developments in our Zoos centred on our strategic priorities:

Wildlife & People

Wildlife & People

A new aquatic exhibit in London featuring a panoramic coral reef and seahorses from the UK will showcase the challenges facing life in the sea, including the threats from plastics and climate change.

Wildlife Back from the Brink

Wildlife Back from the Brink

A new freshwater exhibit in Whipsnade will showcase authentic habitats such as a spring in Greece and the Amboaboa River in Madagascar.

Wildlife Health

Wildlife Health

Alongside our Zoos, our new Science for conservation campus will bring our science closer to the public.

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Science for conservation campus

informing future generations of conservation scientists

In partnership with University College London (UCL) and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), we will develop a science for conservation campus at Regent’s Park, London to transform health outcomes for animals, people and the environment.

Through this, we will create new knowledge, develop science capacity, accelerate the application of research outputs into use and engage with future conservationists and the public.

The need

Impaired wildlife health is often the root cause of wildlife population decline, resulting in biodiversity losses, for example:

  • Amphibian populations worldwide are collapsing due to the spread of the lethal disease chytridiomycosis. The spread has been linked
    to human travel and the pet trade.
  • Wildlife plays a key role in infection transmission pathways and anthropogenic factors often underlie both the emergence of disease threats to biodiversity and the spillover of wildlife pathogens to livestock and people.

Why here?

For well over 30 years, ZSL’s Institute of Zoology has provided the evidence base that poor wildlife health and increasing disease are conservation threats. Our work on chytridiomycosis in amphibians is an exemplar of impactful collaborative research at a global scale on a disease that has massive conservation implications.
ZSL brings together vets, zoologists, ecologists and biological scientists. We are uniquely positioned to lead conservation into a new era of healthy wildlife that can persist and evolve in the face of increasing threats and decreasing habitat, while at the same time reducing any risks to domestic animals and people.

The campus

We will create the Science for Conservation Campus in partnership with UCL and the RVC.
This will provide a centre of excellence for wildlife health and conservation science that can also act as a hub, drawing in researchers to collaborate across the partnership.

The campus will provide

  • A centre of research excellence in One Health with a core focus on wildlife health and conservation science.
  • Teaching: building on existing postgraduate taught courses and developing new offers on environment, evolution and health, among others.
  • Continuing professional development courses for wildlife health practitioners.
  • Wider engagement through scientific publications, education to schools and community groups, professional practice and policy engagement.
  • Support to conservation programmes, oversight of our library, biobanks and other collections.

science

Conservation

empowering communities and influencing policy

Our conservation work will be based on a landscape approach that includes biodiversity monitoring, protected area management, engaging with local communities, threatened species conservation, conservation finance and helping business have a positive impact
on wildlife.

We will focus our conservation effort on the ground in key landscapes and seascapes where there is greatest need and where we can effect positive change, based on our expertise, experience and connections.

As part of this, we will concentrate our overseas activities on a small number of countries in Africa and Asia where we will maintain a long-term presence and bring the full and unique range of ZSL’s expertise to bear on addressing a multitude of conservation threats.

This is enacted through our landscape and seascape approach, looking at the needs and threats to biodiversity and applying tools and solutions in a holistic way.
We will continue to work in other places around the world, working in an agile manner in partnership with other like-minded organisations.

ZSL has a great track record in providing international organisations, governments and businesses with evidence-based, independent information and advice to shape policy decisions affecting wildlife conservation. Our new policy programme will build on this trusted status to expand our influence in this arena, adding value to our work on the ground and tipping the policy balance in favour of wildlife.

conservation

People, values and culture

fit for the future

Our people are our greatest asset and we will be successful in realising our vision through their ideas, skills and passion.

An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL to create a world where wildlife thrives.
Our people and culture plan will take a values-based approach to creating a working environment and structure for ZSL that aligns our people with our vision, purpose and priorities, making us fit for the future.
To support us achieve this we will:

  • Foster a global culture of cross team collaboration based on common goals.
  • Create an organisational structure that is aligned to drive our strategic priorities and avoid duplication of effort.
  • Commit to be an employer of choice to attract, develop and retain top talent.
  • Develop our leaders and managers to lead and inspire their teams to achieve our priorities.
  • Equip our people with the skills and competencies to empower everyone to play their part in delivering our strategy.
  • Develop a high-performance culture that recognises, celebrates and rewards success.
  • Deliver an integrated volunteer programme that benefits both the individual and ZSL, providing rewarding and enriching experiences for those taking part.
  • Promote a culture that treats all our people fairly and with dignity and respect.
  • Provide a safe and healthy working environment that supports wellbeing of our people.

Our values underpin all we do

They embody the behaviours we will demonstrate with our visitors, partners and stakeholders, the way we will work with each other and how we will present ourselves to the world.
Our values were chosen by our colleagues and volunteers to reflect what matters most to us and the way we will strive to be:

  • Inspiring
  • Innovative
  • Impactful
  • Collaborative
  • Ethical

Athena SWAN award

As part of this commitment we were delighted to be awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze research institute award which recognises our solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values diversity.

Stonewall accreditation

We believe that people work better when they can be themselves and we are committed to working towards Stonewall accreditation for offering an inclusive, equal and inspiring environment for LGBT employees and volunteers.

Trailblazing apprenticeships

We also want to encourage young people to work in our Zoos. A trailblazer group of 24 zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks have joined forces to create the UK’s first employer led Zoo Keeper and Aquarist Apprenticeship Standard. We are working closely with the Institute for Apprenticeships to develop this exciting new standard which will provide more accessibility to the industry and ensure our teams are trained to the professional standards required for the workforce of the future.

Accredited management programmes

Last year saw the introduction of our Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) accredited management programmes. So far 80 managers from across the society have taken part. These programmes provide our managers from team leaders through to senior managers with the opportunity to obtain an externally accredited qualification. This coupled with the chance to work with their peers from across the society to share good practice in leadership and management means these programmes are a highly valued and impactful part
of ZSL’s training and development offer.

Engaging and partnering with our conservation family

We will achieve impact through our own efforts and through partnerships to leverage wider networks.
We will inform leaders to develop polices for effective change, empower influencers to share tools and solutions and inspire participants to join our cause.

We will achieve our vision through:

  • Our colleagues and volunteers: building the capacity of our people to play their part in a great ZSL team.
  • ZSL Fellows: to create a network of learning, thinking and innovation.
  • Governments: to change the ground rules in favour of wildlife.
  • Businesses: to inspire breakthroughs that achieve direct and lasting change for wildlife, people and business.
  • Like-minded organisations: such as zoos, universities and other conservation organisations, to scale up our impact.
  • Local communities: to help them live alongside wildlife.
  • Wildlife supporters: including our two million Zoo visitors, donors, media and all those passionate about helping wildlife to thrive.
  • Government / policy makers
  • Funders
  • International agencies
  • Zoo standards and leadership bodies
  • Teachers
  • Academic community
  • Community leaders
  • Professional / cause bodies
  • Media / social media
  • Zoo and conservation community
  • Public
  • Zoo visitors
  • Communities
  • Students

How we’ll know we’ve got there

Impact and measurement will be aligned to our priority areas, with delivery across ZSL supporting our ambition in these areas.

As part of our implementation planning we will develop:

  • Delivery plans to achieve impact across our three priority areas
  • Targets for delivery to 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • A measurement and reporting framework to co-ordinate and report our impact on wildlife

Our People, Planet, Profit framework will help our Trustees, funders, partners and public to understand the way we are using resources to deliver and achieve impact:

  • People: our colleagues, volunteers, ZSL Fellows, supporters and all those we engage with.
  • Planet: the contribution our work makes to conservation and the planet in our three priority areas, as well as the sustainability of our own operation in the UK and overseas.
  • Profit (as a charity, measured by our net surplus): our financial performance and ability of our work to be sustained over the long term.

Our new measurement approach will underpin strategy delivery, and will be:

  • Proportionate: measuring what matters.
  • Comparable across different types of activity, so we can take a whole ZSL view and measure the aggregated impact of our science, conservation, Zoos and engagement.
  • Relevant to the people who need it (our partners, Trustees, visitors and supporters).

To find out more about the strategy,
please contact strategy@zsl.org

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