Welcome to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research!

Willkommen am Leibniz-Institut für Zoo- und Wildtierforschung (IZW)! Deutsche Version der IZW-Webseite.

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) is an interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to developing the scientific basis for novel approaches to wildlife conservation.

In the current era of the Anthropocene, virtually all ecosystems in the world are subjected to man-made impacts. As yet, it is not possible to predict the response of wildlife to the ever-increasing global change. Why are some wildlife species threatened by anthropogenic change, while others persist or even thrive in modified, degenerated or novel habitats?

To answer this and related questions, the IZW conducts basic and applied research across different scientific disciplines. We study the diversity of life histories and evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, of free-ranging and captive wildlife species, and their interactions with people and their environment in Germany, Europe and worldwide.

The IZW is a member of the Leibniz Association and the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

White-tailed sea eagle with fledgling in nest. Photo: Oliver Krone
White-tailed sea eagle with fledgling in nest. Photo: Oliver Krone

Proximity to paths and roads is a burden for white-tailed sea eagles

The white-tailed sea eagle is known for reacting sensitively to disturbances. However, research into which factors have which effects on the animals and how these impacts influence breeding success has so far only just begun. A research team led by Dr Oliver Krone from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now measured concentrations of the hormone corticosterone and its metabolic products in white-tailed sea eagles in northern Germany and correlated these values with potential causes of “stress”. They found that the levels of corticosterone in the birds' urine are higher the closer a breeding pair's nest is to paths or roads. From this, the scientists derive implications for the management and protection of white-tailed sea eagles, in particular for protection zones around the nests. The study was published in the journal "General and Comparative Endocrinology".

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Egyptian mongoose. Photo: Artemy Voikhansky, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55825509
Egyptian mongoose. Photo: Artemy Voikhansky, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55825509

It is not the hairstyle that matters, but the content: hair indicates whether wild animals were "stressed"

While hair analysis has become routine in humans – for example for the detection of prolonged drug or medication abuse – it has been little used in animals to date. Scientists led by Alexandre Azevedo and Katarina Jewgenow of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have now demonstrated that the "stress" hormone cortisol is deposited in hair of wild mongooses in Portugal and determined baselines for cortisol in these carnivores. Age, sex and storage time of the samples were reflected in the cortisol values, but not the season or reproductive status of the females. It is now possible to investigate whether different habitats and changed living conditions, such as the return of the Iberian lynx, place a particular burden on the mongooses. The results were recently published in the scientific journal "PLoS ONE".

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Northern-White-Rhino-Recovery Embryo-Development Photo: BioRescue/Avantea
Northern-White-Rhino-Recovery Embryo-Development Photo: BioRescue/Avantea

First ever in-vitro embryos may mark the turn of the tide in the fate of the nearly extinct northern white rhino

For decades the story of the northern white rhinoceros has been a tale of decline. The number of individuals shrank down to only two in 2018, rendering complete extinction as only a matter of time. An international consortium of scientists and conservationists has now achieved a milestone in assisted reproduction that may be a pivotal turning point in the fate of these magnificent animals. Using eggs collected from the two remaining females and frozen sperm from deceased males, they successfully created two northern white rhino embryos. The embryos are now stored in liquid nitrogen to be transferred into a surrogate mother in the near future.

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Oocyte Fertilization Process (Photo by Ami Vitale)
Ovum Fertilization Process (Photo by Ami Vitale)

Northern White Rhino Eggs Successfully Fertilized

After successfully harvesting ten eggs from the world’s last two northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, on 22 August in Kenya, the international consortium of scientists and conservationists has announced that seven of the ten eggs (four from Fatu and three from Najin) have successfully matured and been artificially inseminated. This was achieved through ICSI (Intra Cytoplasm Sperm Injection) with frozen sperm from two different northern white rhino bulls, Suni and Saut, on Sunday, 25 August. This is the next critical step in hopefully creating viable embryos that can be frozen and later transferred to southern white rhino surrogate mothers.

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Ovum Pickup Procedure (Photo by Ami Vitale)
Ovum Pickup Procedure_Photo by Ami Vitale

Successful Egg Harvest Breaks New Ground in Saving the Northern White Rhinoceros

There are only two northern white rhinos left worldwide, both of them female. Saving this representative of megafauna from extinction seems impossible under these circumstances, yet an international consortium of scientists and conservationists just completed a procedure that could enable assisted reproduction techniques to do just that. On August 22, 2019, a team of veterinarians successfully harvested eggs from the two females who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya — a procedure that has never been attempted in northern white rhinos before. The eggs will now be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull, and in the near future the embryo will be transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother. The successful procedure was a joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) Berlin, Avantea, Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

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