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Zoo Biology

The Zoo Biology Group

By Zoo Biology I mean anything relating to zoo management. Heini Hediger, the father of Zoo Biology described this as “the science which embraced everything which was biologically relevant to the management of the zoological garden.”

Running a zoo and working within a zoo covers a huge and very diverse range of disciplines. Not only does each animal have its own established set of needs but we are learning more of these each and every day. The problem was, and is, that what one zoo employee learns about a particular animal species in say a zoo in Pakistan may only become common knowledge in a zoo in Korea in a years time. Research in good zoos is ongoing. In fact today it is one of the main raison d'être in the good modern zoo. Sometimes it is important to get information to where it is needed as fast as possible.

Zoo News Digest recognised this need and so the Zoo Biology Group was set up on the 24th January 1999. It was the first group of its kind. In fact it was the only group. There were no species specific groups for primates, gorillas, penguins etc as there is today. Zoo Biology remains as popular as ever and, as a group, has the largest number of members. This is because good zoo professionals recognise that few zoo personnel have always been specialist. They may be working with primates now but they could have spent ten earlier years with pinnipeds and two years previous to that with tortoises. They have experience, and more importantly, accumulated knowledge of a range of disciplines. As a member of the Zoo Biology Group they are in a position to provide valuable, important and often life saving information in an instant.



Zoo Biology Is A Private Zoo Group

Zoo Biology is a closed group. Membership is only after invitation or vetting of application. Every applicant will receive a message which includes the following:

The Zoo Biology Group is concerned with all disciplines involved in the running of a Zoological Garden. Captive breeding, husbandry, cage design and construction, diets, enrichment, man management, record keeping, etc It is specifically a forum for professional Zoo Staff. Exceptions may be considered in the case of students or allied professions. You must be committed to both in-situ AND ex-situ conservation. The Zoo Biology Group is independent and not attached to any other group, society or organisation.”

The inclusion of “You must be committed to both in-situ AND ex-situ conservation” was added later after some anti-zoo people joined in with the specific intention of causing trouble. The group is about improving husbandry and care, information exchange and not about arguing. Some students are permitted to join on the proviso that they are ‘watchers’ rather than being there to ask questions. The archives today consist of over 32,000 postings. In terms of accumulated years of expertise… over 23,000 years. That is twenty three thousand years of practical zoo experience. Members of Zoo Biology know their stuff.

Zoo Biology has on many occasions been able to help with a problem quickly. Lives have been saved because of it.


Zoo Ego Problems

The Zoo Biology Group has not been without its problems. In the early days there were staff who were actually sacked for asking questions of the group. Why? Because some senior zoo staff and the zoos themselves have huge egos and were embarrassed that their ‘underlings’ asked questions of the cumulative knowledge of 20,000 years. This is rather sad but in a way understandable. I personally believe that staff should seek out the answer to their questions within their workplace first. The answer may well be there. At the same time it may not and if not then the biggest ‘book’ of zoo knowledge should be consulted and that ‘book’ is Zoo Biology. It should be remembered that most Zoo Biology members have their own libraries as well and some of these are large.

To get around the ‘ego problem’ Zoo Biology allows anonymous members. They are not allowed to join anonymously. The moderator will know. He/She will read through the application email. If they are a genuine zoo employee then their membership will be approved. They are then free, with a certain amount of disguise, able to pose and answer questions without fear of retribution.


Who Are The Zoo Biology Members?

The confidential membership list for Zoo Biology reads like a Zoo Worlds Who's Who. The greater majority are zoo keepers, head heepers and curators but there are high profile zoo directors, zoo veterinarians and researchers too. There are zoo inspectors, zoo police and retired zoo staff. Every zoo discipline is represented. The accumulated zoo knowledge is unsurpassed anywhere.

Zoo Biology is a moderated group. There is a small dedicated group of moderators who read each message before it is posted on line. Moderation keeps out the junk mail, the mistakenly posted love letters (there have been a few) as well as abusive and deliberately argumentative posts. Discussion is fine and is actively encouraged.

It is sad that some members will post answers directly to the person who asked a question rather than to the group. Answers to the group go into the archives which are then accessible to all members. Still, the really important thing is that the questions get answered.

Most people who join the Zoo Biology Group stick with it. They read most posts. It rarely takes more than 5-10 minutes of a working day. It is a learning experience and widens the scope of understanding of what a good modern zoo is all about. It is possible to read postings online rather than having them drop into your mailbox every day. There is even a digest. I believe though that it is more likely that you will miss something important if you choose either of these two alternative methods.


How To Join Zoo Biology

If you work in a zoo and wish to join the Zoo Biology Group it is as simple as clicking on the following link:

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You will then receive the following message:


Your request to join the Zoo Biology Group is one of several awaiting processing.

Zoo Biology is the original discussion, question and answer group dealing with the diverse range of Zoo Sciences. Zoo Biology has more professional Zoo staff as members than any other similar group on the internet. The Zoo Biology Group is concerned with all disciplines involved in the running of a Zoological Garden/Aquarium. This includes captive breeding, husbandry, cage design and construction, diets, enrichment, man management, record keeping, etc It is specifically a forum for professional Zoo Staff. Exceptions MAY be considered in the case of students of zoology or allied professions. You must be committed to in-situ AND ex-situ conservation. Do be prepared to receive from 1-30+ messages per day!! The Zoo Biology archives, accessible to members are a wealth of information.

Zoo Biology has thousands of members in over 670 zoos/aquariums in over 120 countries.


You have already taken the first steps to join this group. If you have not already done so please now send a separate e-mail to giving a brief biography about yourself eg The Zoological collection you are employed in, the work area and your interests. A simple interest in animals is not sufficient ...this is a zoo group! All details will be kept strictly confidential. Failure to send this information will mean that your subscription will not be processed. Please mark your email with ‘APPROVE’ in the subject area.

Your request to join the group will be held for seven days. Should your biography not arrive in that time your original request will be removed from the process list. Thank you

That’s it really. Okay. I’m biased but I know that this group works. I honestly believe that true zoo professionals owe it to their animals to be a member of the Zoo Biology Group.



Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on September 01, 2011:

@matthewzsmith - I can't but I distinctly recall an article on artificial vines. I used to have an extensive library but for some years now I have lived on the road. The only possessions I have are those I can carry in my backpack. The AAZK Facebook group is your best bet or one of the AAZK Chapter groups. There are several of them. I am sure that someone will recall the article and respond eventually.

matthewzsmith on September 01, 2011:

Could you please tell me the article I have tried asking the people at AAZK but no one would respond and when I tried to call them they wouldn't answer and it would not let me leave a voice mail? Please help me, thank you.

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on August 22, 2011:

@matthewzsmith - Sorry but I am 'on the road' with no access to my back copies. Best if you contact the AAZK themselves. Maybe someone on their Facebook group could help.

matthewzsmith on August 22, 2011:

Thank you, do you know which issue this is? Or what year?

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on August 17, 2011:

@matthewzsmith - There was a very good article on how to do this in a back isssue of Animal Keepers' Forum a few years back. I suggest you contact them re purchasing that particular back issue.

matthewzsmith on August 16, 2011:

How do you make artificial monkey vines?

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