Zoo opened in 1963 on a site in Leicestershire. Initially a
comparatively modest collection, it has grown into one of the major
British zoos, attracting over 450,000 visitors a year. It is famous
for its collection of primates.
near the small village of Twycross, the zoo occupies over 40 acres and
is set in open countryside. Despite its rural location, it is only
four miles from the M42/A42 (which links the M1 and M6) making it
readily accessible from anywhere in central England.
Throughout the year (we only close Christmas Day) the zoo plays host to
a wide range of visitors from family
groups on a day out to schoolchildren studying animals (our Education
Department teaches over 15,000 pupils a year).
In 1972 the zoo became a charitable
trust concentrating on conservation and education, and now takes
part in many captive breeding programmes for endangered animals (about
three quarters of the animals housed at Twycross are officially
classed as endangered species).
British zoos, Twycross receives no government funds and relies
entirely on money spent by visitors to continue its work.
large, exciting animals we see on TV programmes are threatened with
extinction. The list includes familiar creatures like gorillas, tigers
and elephants as well as smaller and more obscure species. A major
reason that population numbers may decline is habitat loss to the ever
growing human population.
creatures, like Lions, are disappearing faster than their habitats
because of hunting pressures. Many species are endangered because
their homelands have been disturbed, fragmented and degraded.
these cases, such animals are often isolated in small populations,
unable to meet other groups of their own kind. Many animals kept at
Twycross and other zoos are confined to small populations in the wild.
Such species you can see at Twycross include: Waldrapp Ibis (less than
100 left in the wild), Golden Lion Tamarin (around 800), Bonobo
(around 15 000) and the Asian Lion (around 300).
000 and 6 000 species of land vertebrate (backbone animal) will need
human intervention if they are not to become extinct in the near
future. Such help will come from conservation breeding in zoos and
captive breeding centres. Well-managed zoos can breed animals quicker
and salvage more of them than if they were in a troubled area in the
wild. By co-operating with each other, zoos can reduce or eliminate
inbreeding by sound genetic management. There are more than 500
captive breeding programmes in operation today and, if good zoos
continue to co-operate, they may be able to mount supportive recovery
programmes for all threatened land vertebrates.
In order to operate a
successful captive breeding programme, the history of each animal
should be recorded. These records are then made available to studbook
holders so that they can analyse the captive population and make
recommendations on animal transfers and breeding. Personnel at
Twycross Zoo are responsible for the Chimpanzee studbook in the United
Kingdom, the European studbooks for Red Fronted Macaws and Patagonian
Although the ultimate aim
of a captive breeding programme is to release animals ‘into the
wild’, it is unlikely that many species will be released, since
there is little habitat left that is not under threat from human
activities. Half the world’s tropical forests have disappeared
already, utilised for cash crops and more roads and buildings for the
rapidly growing human population. Despite this, there have been some
successful reintroduction programmes with a number of zoo-born animals
e.g. the Golden Lion Tamarin.
reintroduction of the endangered Golden Lion Tamarin into the wild is
a classic example of how zoos can contribute to the conservation of
animal species in the wild. Twycross has Golden Lion Tamarins which
are on a European breeding programme.
The zoo has had much
success in breeding these South American monkeys which are technically
on loan from the Brazilian Government as part of a captive breeding
programme. It is thought that by the 1970’s, habitat protection
alone would not have stopped the Golden Lion Tamarin from becoming
extinct. Many zoos successfully bred these animals and trained them to
survive in the wild before releasing them into a protected forest
reserve in Brazil. Zoos also donated money to fund the programme.
There are now over 1000 Golden Lion Tamarins in the wild and
approximately 600 in captivity.
over 150 reintroduction projects going on at the present time. They
include animals like the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, black-footed
ferret, Californian Condor and Arabian Oryx. Sometimes the wild is too
degraded or dangerous for reintroduction.
captive populations become refugees in stationary arks - held as an
insurance against extinction until such a time as the wild is safe.
Most important is that zoo populations become a support NOT A
SUBSTITUTE for the wild. Increasingly, captive animals will be used to
augment small wild populations. Animals seen in zoos today may not be
put back into the wild. However their genetic material may be put back
into the wild via their offspring. These offspring may have been
conceived naturally or through techniques such as artificial
insemination or embryo transfer. The technology for this has been
developed in zoos over the last two decades.
the first edition of the World Zoo Conservation Strategy was released
under the initiative of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA)
and the Captive Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the World
Conservation Union (IUCN). The strategy defined the conditions which
zoos and aquaria must satisfy in order to realise their full potential
in conservation, with the overall aim of helping conserve the
Earth’s fast-disappearing wildlife and biodiversity.
It emphasised that ‘the
integrated role of zoo education, research and species and habitat
conservation, combined with the enormous public interest in zoos, and
the ever more intensive co-operation within the world-wide zoo
network, results in a great potential for conservation. It is the duty
of the zoo world to make full use of this potential for nature
conservation on a local, regional and global scale’.
Other ways in which zoos
can support ‘in-situ’ (on site) conservation are:
Since people are visiting zoos in their own free time, they are
open to receiving information. Good zoos have strong conservation
messages incorporated in graphics, literature and educational
programmes such as talks and formal classes. These can raise awareness
on a variety of issues, including the illegal trade in animal parts
and saving local as well as international habitats.
With 600 million people,
10% of the world population, visiting zoos each year there is huge
potential for zoos to encourage public awareness of and support for
conservation world wide.
personnel acquire considerable knowledge on the species they look
after. This can be put to use in field situations e.g. keepers from
Twycross Zoo has helped in rehabilitation programmes for orphaned
gibbons in Asia and with a Sumatran Orangutan rehabilitation project.
Zoos can provide useful research on a range of subjects including
nutrition, interactions with the environment, reproductive biology,
epidemiology, physiology and endocrinology. Several zoos are using
this research for reintroduction programmes and helping established
populations. The research that is done often also provides vital
training for people who want to go into the field.
Public Relations and
Zoos support conservation
projects financially by donating money and equipment. For instance,
every year the Federation of Zoos of the United Kingdom and Ireland
launch an awareness and fund raising campaign (Twycross Zoo is a
member of the Federation). Money has been given to help tigers in the
wild, promote primates, help native species.
In 2001 Zoos across Europe
petitioned on the bushmeat trade. They managed to collect over 1/2
million signatures, which have been presented to the EU and the
African Parliament. .
Many European zoos are raising money to help the Lion Tamarins in the
Some of the campaigns Twycross Zoo is involved
Student Research at
The Twycross Zoo Research Programme:
We have approximately 250 different species made up of a 1000
animals ranging from marmosets to elephants! Many of our animals are
endangered and are involved in breeding programmes. Twycross Zoo has
achieved many successes with its animals for example in 1994 it had
the first Bonobo born in Britain.
At Twycross Zoo we have had research students for many years,
coming to us from universities as far apart as Aberdeen to Exeter.
Twycross, with its exceptional collection of primates has often
attracted not only zoology and biology students, but also psychology
and anthropology students who are interested in aspects of human
evolution. The studies are mainly non-invasive and observational. They
help us to better understand the animals in our care and improve the
animals habitat. Your results will help us build up an extensive
library of research from which we can continue to improve the animals
surroundings by providing them with natural and stimulating
environments. Some of the results may also be published to the
zoological community in the Zoo Research News Letter.
If you decide that you wish to undertake a research project at
Twycross Zoo you must send us a copy of the research proposal form so
we can assess the suitability of your project.
Once your project has been authorised we ask that you join the zoo
for the period of your study at a cost of £15, which will entitle you
to free entrance and identification for working around the site.
At the end of your time at Twycross we ask that you send us a short
summary of the work you did here. This is so that we can give this to
the keepers while you are still fresh in their memories. It can help
them by feeding into their work. We also ask that you when you have
completed the project you give us a copy for our records.
Any questions about research may be addressed to
the research co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Please note this address is only for research students. For
all other enquires please telephone the zoo.)
Zoo has a professional Education Department whose task is to interpret
the zoo for schools, universities and the general public.
This ranges from giving talks, writing lively
information packs, and supervising undergraduate research to designing
and producing signs and graphics for the zoo. The department currently
consists of three staff: Alan Bates, BA (Hons), PGCE, Joanna Baker,
BSc (Hons), PGCE, and Joanna Buerling BSc.
Zoo can offer you:
- FREE preliminary visits for teachers (just phone for an
- Teaching sessions in the Zoo Centre or Napier Centre
- Talks tailored to your Scheme of Work
- Hands-on specimens for booked sessions
- An award-winning Teachers’ Pack
- An award-winning CD ROM
- Entrance discounts for pupils and accompanying adults
- All facilities accessible by wheelchair
area eating facilities (subject to availability and circumstances)
Interactive Teaching Sessions
class observe, discover and experience the living world. The zoo
allows pupils to develop skills and concepts about our world and our
responsibilities to it.
We tailor your talk to your
needs - let us know what YOU would like.