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The Leibniz-IZW is an internationally renowned German research institute. It is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association. Our goal is to understand the adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change and to contribute to the enhancement of the survival of viable wildlife populations. For this purpose, we investigate the diversity of life histories, the mechanisms of evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, as well as the interrelations of wildlife with their environment and people. We use expertise from biology and veterinary medicine in an interdisciplinary approach to conduct fundamental and applied research – from the molecular to the landscape level – in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. Additionally, we are committed to unique and high-quality services for the scientific community.

News

 

Female Gorilla with 8 month old offspring in zoo
Female Gorilla with 8 month old offspring in zoo

More than the sum of their genes – scientists call for a new perspective for population management of animals in zoos

Reproducing efficiently in captivity is crucial for the survival of many wildlife species, yet reproductive success is often lower than in the wild. Currently, many zoo population management strategies prioritise the genetic diversity of captive populations. Scientists now argue that a broader perspective is required which also includes behaviour, life-history, husbandry and environmental considerations. This would improve breeding success in zoos and the maintenance of the diversity of traits, behaviours, and phenotypes of threatened species. In a paper published recently in the scientific “Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research” they compare different population management approaches and conclude that prioritizing genetic factors to the exclusion of all others may have detrimental effects: For example, in small groups of unrelated adults, conflicts are likely to be more frequent than in larger groups with relatives present who had the chance to develop differentiated socialisation and learning repertoires.

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Foto: Wolf, Canis lupus; Heiko Anders
Foto: Wolf, Canis lupus; Heiko Anders

Habitat modelling and estimation of potential territory numbers reveal where wolves may live in Germany

Germany potentially provides many suitable areas for grey wolf territories. This means that wolves may potentially settle down in large parts of the country where they were extinct until around the year 2000. It should be expected that they will disperse through other areas not delineated as suitable as well. These are the results of a study conducted by the Federal Documentation and Consultation Centre on Wolves (DBBW), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), the Technical University of Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology (Vienna). The study was commissioned and published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Germany.

 

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Foto: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program
Foto: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program

Conservation research on lynx:

Another piece of the puzzle about the longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes has been uncovered. Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes. It is highly likely that SOD2 not only detoxifies the reactive oxygen radicals in the cells, but also inhibits programmed cell death. The results were recently published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports of the Nature Group.

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Photo: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program
Photo: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program

Preservation of testicular cells to save endangered feline species

A research team at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) developed a method to isolate and cryopreserve testicular cells. This will allow the safekeeping and biobanking of gametes and other cells of the male reproductive tract of threatened or endangered feline species. The findings have been published in the scientific journal "Cryobiology".

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Common noctule bat (Photo: Kamran Safi, wikimedia commons)
Common noctule bat (Photo: Kamran Safi, wikimedia commons)

Bats depend on conspecifics when hunting above farmland

Common noctules – one of the largest bat species native to Germany – are searching for their fellows during their hunt for insects above farmland. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) show in a paper published in the journal “Oikos” that bats forage on their own in insect-rich forests, but hunt collectively in groups over insect-poor farmland. They seem to zoom in on places where conspecifics emit echolocations during the capture of insects, an inadvertent clue that reveals high-yielding areas to others. However, “listening” to their hunting companions to find food only works when sufficient numbers of bats forage in the same area. If numbers continue to decline, density could fall below a critical level and joint hunting could become difficult or impossible. This could pose an additional threat to the survival of species such as the Common noctule.

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Detail of cheetah fur, Photo: Jan Zwilling
Detail of cheetah fur, Photo: Jan Zwilling

Hair in “stress”: analyse with care

Similar to humans, wild animals’ reaction to disturbance is accompanied by releasing hormones, such as cortisol. To understand the impact of various “stress” factors – for example competition for food, encounters with predators, or changing environmental conditions – on wildlife, scientists first need to determine the baseline levels of relevant hormones for each species. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now uncovered possible pitfalls of the commonly used hormone analysis method that overestimate concentrations of cortisol and thus lead to overstated conclusions. They investigated whether glucocortiocoid hormones deposited in animal hair can be reliable biomarkers to indicate the impact of disturbances. The source of errors in the commonly used antibody-based enzyme immunoassays (EIA) method is described in a recently published article in the scientific journal “Conservation Physiology”.

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Naked mole rat at Leibniz-IZW, Photo: Jan Zwilling
Naked mole rat at Leibniz-IZW, Photo: Jan Zwilling

Newly confirmed biochemical mechanism in mouse, bat and naked mole rat cells is a key component of the anti-ageing program

Ageing is an inevitable part of life, yet some species are ageing very differently than others, even than very similar ones. Naked mole rats for example, an east African rodent of a size comparable to moles or mice, show a strongly delayed process of ageing and live up to 30 years. Scientists from Russia, Germany and Switzerland now confirmed a mechanism in mouse, bat and naked mole rat cells – a “mild depolarization” of the inner mitochondrial membrane – that is linked to ageing: Mild depolarization regulates the creation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS) in cells and is therefore a mechanism of the anti-ageing program. In mice, this mechanism falls apart at the age of 1 year, while in naked mole rats this does not occur until ages of up to 20 years. This newly confirmed mechanism is described in detail in a paper published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA”.

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City fox on a Berlin railway facility (photo: Jon Andoni Juarez Garcia)
City fox on a Berlin railway facility (photo: Jon Andoni Juarez Garcia)

City fox and country fox – genetics reveal behavioural and physical barriers between urban and rural red foxes in and around Berlin

For wildlife, cities can present new opportunities as well as threats. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) analysed genetic material of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) inhabiting Berlin and its surroundings. They identified two genetically distinct, adjacent “urban” and “rural” fox populations and revealed that physical barriers such as rivers or man-made structures reduce the exchange between these populations but also differences in human activity in these landscapes play a major role. The researchers suggest that avoidance of sites of human activity may drive foxes into costly trade-offs as they prefer to disperse along potentially dangerous transportation infrastructures. The study was recently published in the scientific journal “Molecular Ecology”.

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IZW in the media

BBC video on the Northern White Rhino Rescue reaches more than 1,3 million views on youtube and more than 9,5 million views on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2685812534841992).

 

06.07.2020 | Mongabay
For two rhino species on brink of extinction, it’s collaboration vs. stonewalling

03.07.2020 | Spiegel Online
Clans im Matriarchat - Das wundersame Sozialverhalten der Tüpfelhyänen

30.06.2020 | Spiegel Online
Nashorn-Rettungsversuch: Sie sind die letzten ihrer Art

27.06.2020 | stern
Was tun, wenn es nur noch Weibchen gibt?

25.06.2020 | Süddeutsche Zeitung
Wegen Paarung mit Hund abgeschossene Wölfin nicht trächtig

25.06.2020 | Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Der Fuchs: Was den scheuen Räuber so faszinierend macht

22.06.2020 | Spektrum der Wissenschaft
Naturschutz: Wird bleihaltige Jagdmunition endlich verboten?

22.06.2020 | Berliner Zeitung
Forscher warnen vor Hexenjagd auf Fledermäuse wegen Corona

18.06.2020 | BILD
Rettung für die Nashörner, Serengeti Park bei Projekt dabei

17.06.2020 | ScienceDaily
Oocyte collection and embryo creation in southern white rhinos

17.06.2020 | Phys.Org
Researchers perform southern white rhino oocyte collection and embryo creation

16.06.2020 | RTL
Vom Aussterben bedroht: Serengeti-Park Hodenhagen hilft bei Rettung der Breitmaulnashörner

17.06.2020 | Stuttgarter Zeitung
Fledermäuse in den Fängen von Windrädern

16.06.2020 | la Repubblica
Rinoceronte bianco del nord, nuove speranze di salvarlo dall'estinzione

13.06.2020 | Radio1
Berliner Füchse verlassen die Stadt nicht

06.06.2020 | Radio1
Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften - Die Koexistenz von Mensch und Tier

06.06.2020 | Volksstimme
Grottenolme - Weltsensation aus Rübeland

05.06.2020 | Bayrischer Rundfunk
Rangordnung im Tierreich - Auf deinen Platz!

05.06.2020 | Berliner Zeitung
Berliner Füchse haben keine Lust auf Brandenburg

29.05.2020 | The Hindu
In the wake of unverified rumours linking bats to the novel coronavirus, bats have suddenly emerged as villains

25.05.2020 | Spektrum der Wissenschaft
Fledermaus-Angst: »Das ist eine regelrechte Hexenjagd«

23.05.2020 | Focus
Nashorn aus der Dose

15.05.2020 | Spektrum der Wissenschaft
Der Wolf hätte fast überall Platz

25.04.2020 | Süddeutsche Zeitung
Tiere: Forschung zur Rettung von Nashorn-Unterart "auf Eis"

20.04.2020 | New York Times
When Crocodiles Once Dived Like Dolphins and Whales

20.04.2020 | The Guardian
Ancient ocean-going crocodiles mimicked whales and dolphins

14.04.2020 | BBC
Northern white rhinos: The audacious plan that could save a species

14.04.2020 | La Repubblica
Kenya, un laboratorio italiano salverà il rinoceronte bianco

13.03.2020 | La Stampa
Le Wallaby della palude possono essere incinte tutta la vita

11.03.2020 | Fox News
This adorable animal spends its entire adult life pregnant

03.03.2020 | Süddeutsche Zeitung
Biologie: Wallaby-Kängurus können doppelt trächtig werden

02.03.2020 | The New York Times
This Mom Is Still Pregnant. But She’s Already Having Another Baby

02.03.2020 | Smithsonian Magazine
Swamp Wallabies Can Get Pregnant While Pregnant

02.03.2020 | National Geographic
This marsupial is the only animal that's always pregnant

21.02.2020 | ZDF
planet e.: Artenschutz extrem - Erhalt um jeden Preis?