Zinc oxide nano-particles (25 nm) have been investigated by cathodoluminescence spectroscopy (300 nm-1700 nm) at 80 K and 300 K following thermal annealing in high purity H2/N2, N2, O2 and Ar gaseous atmospheres. The intensity of the ZnO near band edge peak was significantly increased after heat treatment in hydrogen. Conversely, thermal annealing in the other gas types decreased this emission. This effect is attributed to hydrogen passivation of competitive non-radiative defect centers, most likely bulk zinc vacancy centers. The appearance of a strong green emission centered at 2.4 eV following thermal annealing in all gas atmospheres is ascribed to the formation of bulk oxygen vacancy defects. A strong red shift of the near band edge emission with increasing beam current at 300 K is accredited to electron beam heating rather than to an increase in the carrier density. Electron beam heating is evidenced by the occurrence of a strong black body emission in the near infrared spectral region.