South Africa has unique species richness, diversity and endemism with over 20 000 plant species and 75 000 animal species that include mammals, birds, reptiles and other species. This diversity of animals is found in conservation and tourist contexts and also play a key role in supporting local livelihoods. As ecological habitats change over time, for example as a result of climate change, zoology is the science of understanding the interaction and adaptation of animals within and to their physical environment to inform the development of strategies to manage and conserve species populations.

Zoologists study the anatomy, physiology, behaviour, characteristics and environments of animals. They investigate the origin of animal species, interactions, interrelationships, classifications, life histories, habits, life processes, diseases and genetics in relation to the environment. They further examine the growth, development and distribution of animal populations. Some assist in the development of breeding programmes, as well as conservation and eco-tourism initiatives.

Zoologists typically work between an office environment, laboratory and the field, observing species and collecting samples for testing. They can be consulted by behaviourists, zookeepers, marine and wildlife biologists and veterinarians to understand and manage animal populations.


Zoologists must have a comprehensive knowledge of biological and environmental characteristics of animal species, coupled with:

  • Extensive research ability
  • Excellent observation and attention to detail
  • Strong logical and problem-solving competence
  • Good relational competence


Design and conduct research projects, analysing data and writing scientific papers

Study animals in their natural habitat, collecting specimens for testing

Dissect and examine specimens to carry out experimental studies

Assist captive breeding programmes and promote conservation efforts


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Zoology at all universities

B.Sc.Agric., B.Sc.Agric. (Hons), M.Sc.Agric. in Animal Science at NWU, SU, UFH, UFS, UNISA, Univen, Unizulu and UP


National, provincial and local wildlife parks.

NGOs, conservation sanctuaries and private consultancies.

Museums, zoos and aquariums.

Research institutions.

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