Reproductive technologies have been playing a role in zoos for more than two decades. However, the value of these techniques has largely been misunderstood. There has been an over-emphasis on hyperbole and the ‘quick-fix’ (the attempted use of assisted-breeding techniques to produce offspring rapidly) and too little prominence on the prerequisite need to understand fundamental reproductive processes. The real value of these technologies is in delving into species-specific mechanisms that regulate reproductive success. Thus, the priority should always be using the technologies as tools to generate new knowledge that can then have applied benefits to management, ex situ or in situ. Models of using this strategy to develop successful assisted-breeding programmes are discussed, as well as the importance of integrating science between researchers and animal managers.