This paper considers the role of zoological gardens as vehicles for teaching about biodiversity and conservation. The general importance of conservation and biodiversity education is outlined in the context of Agenda 21 and the Global Biodiversity Strategy, and the unique niche of zoo education for meeting these challenges is defined. This includes the exhibition of real live animals, accessibility. immediacy, popularity, egalitarianism and the unique combination of strengths and resources offered by zoo education departments. Effective zoo education for biodiversity conservation depends on answering certain criticisms (including behavioural distortion, ecological context and people/animal relationships); working within the available resource framework; and careful strategic planning that considers appropriate messages, target audiences and communication methods. Future zoo education trends might include developing the unique niche; teaching about zoos' role in interactive management; and the contribution of zoo networks to education.