In light of the United Nations declaring 2010 as the ‘International Year of Biodiversity’, we carried out an audit of in situ conservation projects supported by the world zoo and aquarium community. The results of our questionnaire survey show that the 113 evaluated projects are helping to improve the conservation status of high-profile threatened species and habitats in biodiversity-rich regions of the world. Our results show that thanks to the investment made by zoos and aquariums, particularly financial, these projects reached overall impact scores of a magnitude suggestive of an appreciable contribution to global biodiversity conservation. The present first global appraisal of the contribution of the world zoo and aquarium community to in situ conservation from a supported project's perspective thus suggests that zoos and aquariums are on track for ‘Building a Future for Wildlife’, as stipulated in the revised World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy of 2005. However, zoos and aquariums could make an even stronger contribution by allocating more resources to in situ conservation, which – as our results show – would significantly increase the projects' conservation impact. Increased pooling of resources among zoological institutions thus appears to be advisable.