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.
+++ Current information on African swine fever: The Leibniz-IZW conducts research on the population dynamics, on models of disease outbreaks in wild boars and on the ecology and human-wildlife interaction in urban areas. African swine fever is a reportable disease in domestic swine and therefor is the purview of the respective federal state laboratories and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) FLI. +++
Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have found that interacting with other males is more “stressful” for low-ranking than for high-ranking male spotted hyenas. This restricts the time and energy low-ranking males can invest in courting the most desirable females and is therefore a key factor for their lower reproductive success than their high-ranking rivals. This mechanism seems to be more important in determining the number and quality of offspring than physical traits such as attractiveness and fighting ability. These insights were possible owing to a combination of extensive field and lab work – over 20 years of searching and identifying thousands of hyenas in the Ngorongoro Crater in Northern Tanzania, monitoring their behaviour and life histories, and measuring the concentration of glucocorticoid metabolites in more than 400 faeces. The findings are published in the scientific journal “Functional Ecology”.
One year ago, the Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF) – a spin-off of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) – and the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Deutschland e.V. launched a collaboration to convert oil palm plantations into new rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. These new rainforest sites will serve as a wildlife corridor between two protected areas that are currently separated by plantations impassable to many wildlife species: Tabin and Kulamba Wildlife Reserves. Within three years, the RFF and other partners have acquired 65 hectares of key areas (forest and plantation areas) with guidance from the Leibniz-IZW. The areas were transferred to the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD), which assigned them to the highest protection status. Since the collaboration of RFF and BOS started, approximately 8,000 new trees were planted and now grow to become valuable wildlife habitat.
Rural central Namibia is one of the most important strongholds of the declining global cheetah population. Here, the rarest large African cat lives on privately owned farmland. A traditional conflict poses a threat to them,as they occasionally prey on cattle calves and are therefore rarely welcomed on the farms. New insights into the cheetah’s spatial behaviour provide a viable solution to this human-wildlife conflict: In the core areas of male cheetah territories all local males and females frequently meet to exchange information. This results in hotspots of cheetah activity in these “communication hubs” and in substantially less activity in the vast areas between the core areas of the territories. Implementing this knowledge and moving their breeding herds with young calves out of these hotspots, farmers were able to reduce livestock losses by more than 80 percent. These insights are the result of a close and trusting cooperation between scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and farmers in central Namibia. They are published in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America”.
The European Board of Veterinary Specialisation has recognised Dr Kristin Mühldorfer, microbiology specialist in the Leibniz-IZW Department of Wildlife Diseases, as a de facto diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Microbiology (ECVM). Simultaneously, the Leibniz-IZW received approval as a Satellite Training Centre to participate in the ECVM residency programme and to promote high quality training in the discipline of veterinary microbiology at the European level. Residents will benefit from the long hands-on and scientific experience of bacteriology and pathology in wildlife disease diagnostics, and gain insights into research activities of Mühldorfer and her colleagues.
Urbanisation represents a drastic change to natural habitats and poses multiple challenges to many wildlife species, thereby affecting the occurrence and the abundance of many bird species. A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB) collaborated to analyse breeding bird data from the Senate of Berlin gathered by citizen scientists. They found that the abundance of invertebrates such as insects or spiders as prey is a key factor affecting bird diversity in the city. The more prey is available, the more diverse the urban bird communities are. This demonstrates the importance of species interactions for explaining urban biodiversity in addition to impacts of anthropogenic disturbance and habitat structure. The results are published in the scientific journal “Diversity and Distributions”.
The international consortium Bird10K aims to produce genome sequences for all known bird species in the world. Now the team of scientists around Prof Andre Franke at the Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology at the University of Kiel (IKMB) has reached a new milestone: In the scientific journal "Nature" they published the largest vertebrate genome project to date with a total of 363 species. Franke's team, led by Dr Marc Höppner from the IKMB, used the expertise and modern technical equipment of the Kiel Genome Centre CCGA for this project. Part of the genome project is the best genome reference to date for the strictly protected white-tailed sea eagle, which was created in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW). The genome resource lays the foundation for a large number of research projects on the biology of different species and will also make a significant contribution to their protection.
Foxes are considered to be particularly adaptable and suited to life in large cities. A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in cooperation with the Berlin-Brandenburg State Laboratory has now deciphered an important aspect of these adaptations. Using stable isotope analysis, they showed that individual red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) have a much narrower diet than might be expected from their omnivorous habits. The population of country foxes had a much broader diet than their urban conspecifics, whose diet differed little between individuals. The diet of urban and country foxes showed little overlap. This combination of specialisation and flexibility is a key to this omnivore's adaptability, according to a paper published in the scientific journal “Ecology and Evolution”.
A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), the Australian Museum and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) report a new method for identifying any genome sequence located next to a known sequence. It is often difficult to precisely determine unknown sequences close to small known fragments. Whole genome sequencing can be a solution, but it’s a very cost intensive approach. In order to find a more efficient technique, the scientists developed Sonication Inverse PCR (SIP): First, DNA is cut into random pieces using ultrasound waves. After DNA fragmentation, long-range inverse PCR is performed followed by long-fragment high-throughput sequencing. SIP can be used to characterise any DNA sequence (near a known sequence) and can be applied across genomics applications within a clinical setting as well as molecular evolutionary analyses. The results are reported in the scientific journal “Methods in Ecology and Evolution”.