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.

Hyena cubs (photo: Sarah Benhaiem)
Hyena cubs (photo: Sarah Benhaiem)

Hyena population recovered slowly from a disease epidemic

Infectious diseases can substantially reduce the size of wildlife populations, thereby affecting both the dynamics of ecosystems and biodiversity. Predicting the long-term consequences of epidemics is thus essential for conservation. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin and from the Center for Functional Ecology and Evolution (CEFE) in Montpellier, France, have now developed a mathematical model ("matrix model") to determine the impact of a major epidemic of canine distemper virus (CDV) on the population of spotted hyenas in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The results of the study are published in the new Nature open-access journal Communications Biology.

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An Annamite striped rabbit captured by a camera trap (Photo: Leibniz-IZW / WWF-Vietnam CarBi Project / Hue Saola Nature Reserve)
An Annamite striped rabbit captured by a camera trap (Photo: Leibniz-IZW / WWF-Vietnam CarBi Project / Hue Saola Nature Reserve)

Fading stripes in Southeast Asia: First insight into the ecology of an elusive and threatened rabbit

The Annamite mountains of Vietnam and Lao PDR (Laos) harbour exceptional species richness and endemism, but its wildlife is under threat from widespread and intensive poaching. The region is home to the Annamite striped rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi), a little-known lagomorph only discovered by science in 1995. A new study carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in collaboration with WWF-Vietnam, WWF-Laos, and the Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (CRES) of the Vietnam National University, provides the first detailed information about the species ecology. The study is published in the international journal Oryx.

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Spotted hyaenas (photo: O. Höner)
Spotted hyaenas (photo: O. Höner)

The power of social support – How female hyaenas came to dominate males

In most animal societies, members of one sex dominate those of the other. Is this, as widely believed, an inevitable consequence of a disparity in strength and ferocity between males and females? Not necessarily. A new study on wild spotted hyaenas shows that in this social carnivore, females dominate males because they can rely on greater social support than males, not because they are stronger or more competitive in any other individual attribute. The main reason for females having, on average, more social support than males is that males are more likely to disperse and that dispersal disrupts social bonds. The study by scientists of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW, Germany) and the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier (ISEM, France) was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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Landing white-tailed sea eagle; (c) Oliver Krone
Landing white-tailed sea eagle; (c) Oliver Krone

First evidence of fatal infection of white-tailed sea eagles with avian influenza

The most common unnatural causes of death in white-tailed sea eagles are lead poisoning and collisions with trains. During the winter of 2016/2017, however, many white-tailed eagles died in Northern Germany in circumstances unrelated to either cause. Instead, at least 17 white-tailed sea eagles were killed by avian influenza of the highly pathogenic virus subtype H5N8, as a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, FLI) demonstrated. Avian influenza may become a new threat for this highly protected wild species. The study was published in the scientific journal “Viruses”.

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Flying bat (Pipistrellus nathusii); Copyright (c) Christian Giese
Flying bat (c) Christian Giese

Red light at night: A potentially fatal attraction to migratory bats

Night time light pollution is rapidly increasing across the world. Nocturnal animals are likely to be especially affected but how they respond to artificial light is still largely unknown. In a new study, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin, Germany, tested the response of European bats to red and white light sources during their seasonal migration. Soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and, to a lesser degree, Nathusius’ pipistrelles (Pipistrellus nathusii) were recorded more frequently near red LED light, indicating that the animals might be attracted to red light during their migration. In contrast, the scientists did not observe such behaviour near white LED lights.

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