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.
Widespread poaching in tropical biodiversity hotspots is causing unprecedented declines in wildlife populations, known as defaunation. A new study published in the journal “Diversity & Distributions”, provides evidence that large-scale systematic surveys and novel methods of data collection and analysis, are necessary to assess the extent and distribution of poaching and its impact on biodiversity in forest exposed to severe defaunation. Mapping biodiversity in this way will provide information critical to protecting rare species that may still exist in these landscapes. The research was conducted in the Annamite mountains on the border of Laos and Vietnam, an area with an exceptionally high occurrence of endemic species that is threatened by illegal poaching through the setting of wire snares. The research team, led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), comprised scientists, conservationists and government counterparts, including representatives from WWF-Vietnam and WWF-Laos.
Nairobi, Kenya - In August 2019 a team of scientists and conservationists broke new ground in saving the northern white rhinoceros from extinction. They harvested eggs from the two remaining females, artificially inseminated those using frozen sperm from deceased males and created two viable northern white rhino embryos. With great support from the Kenyan Government and in the presence of Hon Najib Balala, – Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife – the team repeated the procedure on December 17, 2019, and was able to create a new embryo over Christmas. This significantly increases the chances of successfully producing offspring. The procedure has proven to be safe and reproducible, and can be performed on a regular basis before the animals become too old. Preparations for the next steps of the northern white rhino rescue mission are underway.
Since 2012 the Giant Panda Global Awards honour conservation work for the Giant Panda all over the world. Awardees include individual pandas, offspring as well as zoological gardens, veterinary teams, keepers and other personalities with significant achievements in giving these charismatic animals a future on our planet. In the 2019 edition of the awards Prof Dr Thomas B. Hildebrandt was named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” (Gold Award) for remarkable achievements in applying assisted reproduction technologies and imaging techniques in giant panda.
The reproduction of lynxes is highly mysterious. Unlike other wild cats, most lynxes are only receptive for a few days once a year. As scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have already shown in the past, this is a consequence of the long life of corpus lutea in the ovaries which prevents further ovulation during the course of the year. The Berlin team has now achieved another breakthrough in solving the puzzle: they were able to isolate several cell types of corpus luteum from domestic cat tissue and characterise their function in detail with the help of cell cultures. The new method can also be applied to endangered felids such as the Iberian lynx and could advance our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of the longevity of corpus lutea in lynxes. The ultimate goal in practical terms is to induce ovulation with the help of corpus luteum hormones. This would enhance the support for the reproduction of the highly endangered Iberian lynx in breeding programmes.
People can hardly imagine a city without night-time street lighting. But how do nocturnal animals such as bats respond to the illuminated urban landscape? In a recent study, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), together with German and international colleagues, equipped common noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) with mini GPS transmitters and recorded their trajectories in the sky above Berlin. They show that common noctules avoid brightly lit, built-up areas. The metropolitan area of Berlin is therefore mostly unsuitable as a habitat for bats. Dark corridors such as city forests, parks or watercourses, on the other hand, are of great importance for commuting and foraging. The results are published in the journal "Landscape Ecology".
The fragmentation of natural habitats by fences and human settlements is threatening the survival of the white rhinoceros. It prevents dispersal from the family group and leads to mating among close relatives. Additionally female rhinoceros favour individual males for mating over others and sire several offspring with the same partner over consecutive breeding periods. These factors lead to a high degree of inbreeding. The results come from the largest scientific study to date on the sexual preferences of white rhinos, published in the journal "Evolutionary Applications". The scientists propose specific measures to ensure the long term survival of the species.
Artificial light influences the behaviour of many nocturnal animals such as bats, which are very sensitive to all types of lighting. Particularly critical is the illumination of natural caves in which bats roost. Cave illumination is widespread in tourist areas worldwide and disturbs the animals in their resting places. Researchers of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO) have now investigated how the illumination of bat caves affects the animals’ behaviour and whether the colour of light makes a difference on their flight and emergence activity. Although red light irritates the small mammals somewhat less than white light, from the researchers' point of view neither the entrance nor the interior of bat caves should be illuminated if bats are present. The results are published in the journal "Global Ecology and Conservation".
An alliance of conservationists and researchers is converting oil palm plantations into near-natural rainforests on Borneo. In this way, an important wildlife corridor can be restored. The research project is to serve as a blueprint for future conversion measures in Malaysia and Indonesia. The pilot project makes an important contribution to nature, species and climate protection.