The Department of Zoology was one of the Departments to be set up in October 1967 with the establishment of the Faculty of Science. Professor H.H. Costa was the founder professor and the sole member of the teaching staff when it was established. Later, Dr. (Mrs.) M.M. Fernando, Dr. I.V.S. Fernando, Dr. E.F.W. Fernando and Dr. S.S. De Silva joined the department as staff members. At the time of inception, the department had one shared lecture hall, a partially equipped laboratory and a batch of 28 students who had chosen to offer Zoology as a subject for their B.Sc. degree.

Commencement of the BSc (Special) degree in Zoology was in 1975. Initially, aquatic ecology, fisheries biology and applied entomology were the main emphasis areas. The first batch of special degree graduates passed out in 1976.
Since 1976, the Department has conducted research based higher degree programmes. The first MPhil (known as MSc at that time) degree program in the Faculty of Science was started by the Department of Zoology The Department commenced the MSc programme in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management in 1997. In 2001, a Postgraduate Diploma programme in Environmental Management was also started by the Department of Zoology.
The BSc in Environmental Conservation and Management (ENCM) degree programme, the first such degree programme in Sri Lanka was introduced by the Department in 2006. BSc degree in ENCM was commenced in 2005/2006 academic year while the BSc (Special) degree programme in ENCM was commenced in 2007/2008 academic year. For this unique multidisciplinary degree programme, 50 students are selected annually by the University Grant Commission through a separate window. Since its inception in the year 2006, this programme has become very popular among Sri Lankan students. Now this programme is popular even among foreign students who seek higher education in Sri Lanka.

Considering the fact that the production of competitive graduates who can significantly contribute towards the national and international development, recruitment of Environmental Management expertise in the non-biology fields to expand the research capacity of the Department and carry out more collaborative multidisciplinary research in Environmental Conservation and Management and produce more postgraduates with research based higher degrees in multidisciplinary fields, the Department of Zoology was renamed as the Department of Zoology and Environmental Management in 2014 (Gazette No. 1885/32 dated 23rd October 2014).
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