ZOO ensures, through effective management, that the animal population enjoys optimal welfare and health (genetic, physical and behavioural). In order to ensure healthy animals in the future, breeding is coordinated internationally by combining breeding pairs in the best possible way. By selecting breeding pairs, we ensure that the male and female are as unrelated as possible. If related individuals have offspring it results in inbreeding, and their offspring may become less strong.

Species, which are part of international breeding partnerships, are paired by a species coordinator who has detailed knowledge of the origin of the animals in order to ensure as much genetic variation as possible. It is the species coordinator’s responsibility that the combined population, across borders, always has the optimum composition so it is healthy and can exist, in this regard, far into the future.

Breeding coordinator

ZOO is a breeding coordinator for chimpanzees, musk oxen, Tasmanian devils and puffins.

Read more about the various breeding programmes below.


Hunting and destruction of chimpanzee habitats are to blame for chimpanzees being an endangered species. Conservation programmes linking efforts with chimpanzees in the wild and in zoos are therefore in focus. The largest conservation programme for the species, the European breeding programme, is coordinated by the Copenhagen ZOO, which ensures that the large population is genetically similar to the populations found in the wild.


The Tasmanian devil has been subjected to a serious decline in the wild. This is primarily due to a cancer, which attacks mature, two-year-old youngsters. The consequence of this disease is that 80% of the population in the wild has disappeared since the mid-1990s. The disease has required targeted breeding and communication regarding the situation in the wild. It is the Copenhagen ZOO who is leading the European effort.


The puffin, like other North Atlantic seabirds, is a good indicator of the state of the marine environment. A clear sign of the deterioration of the marine environment is, among other things, indicated by the fact that puffins in the Faroe Islands have not bred for a number of years, therefore the population is in decline. At the Copenhagen ZOO, we keep a studbook for the population of puffins throughout the European zoos. This work is important, for the future, to be able to use the puffins as an indicator of global warming, marine environment and life on the North Atlantic islands.


The musk ox, with its extreme adaptations, is one of the few large herbivores that can live in the high Arctic areas. There are currently a good population of musk oxen in the wild, but they are very vulnerable to climatic changes in their habitat. There is only a small population of musk oxen in zoos, and to ensure a healthy and sustainable population for many years, it is necessary to coordinate the breeding of these animals. The European breeding programme for musk oxen has existed since 1985 and is the only one of its kind in the world.