< > W441 - Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society – http://www.twycrosszoo.com

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Organisation Reference Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society
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This information has been taken directly from the "Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society" Website:

Twycross 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.

Situated 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).

Like most British zoos, Twycross receives no government funds and relies entirely on money spent by visitors to continue its work.


Many 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.

Some 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.

In all 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).

Between 2 000 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 Sealions.

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.

The 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.

There are 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.

Then 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.

In 1993 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.


Zoo 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 Fund Raising:

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. . 

In 2002 Many European zoos are raising money to help the Lion Tamarins in the Atlantic Rainforest.

Some of the campaigns Twycross Zoo is involved with include:

  • Atlantic Rainforest Campaign
  • Bushmeat Campaign
  • Sumatran Orangutans

Student Research at Twycross Zoo:

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 joanna.zoo@btinternet.com.  (Please note this address is only for research students. For all other enquires please telephone the zoo.)


Twycross 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.

Twycross Zoo can offer you:

  • FREE preliminary visits for teachers (just phone for an appointment)
  • 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
  • Dry area eating facilities (subject to availability and circumstances)
  • Lively Interactive Teaching Sessions

Let your 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.

Dates Referenced May 2003
Contact Details

Twycross Zoo
Telephone 01827 880250/880440
Fax 01827 880700
Registered Charity 501841

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