Over the last 40 years or so the zoo and aquarium world has made significant progress in its cooperative management of ex situ populations. Our community's strategy for the future is no less ambitious. However, it is becoming clear that we must do even better and even more, and for a much wider range of species. Additional needs for population management are increasingly being expressed that cannot be met by our current methods and tools. This paper aims to highlight some of the recent developments, scientific and technical challenges, and needs for scientific research in three broad areas that represent important fields for the future: the management of group-living organisms, the minimization of adaptation to captivity and the management of metapopulations. It is our intention for this paper to function as a brief description of the status quo in these fields of population management for ex situ breeding programmes for conservation, particularly those run by zoo and aquarium associations, and for it to function as a source of inspiration for researchers working in and with zoos and aquariums.