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.

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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Bache mit Frischlingen. Foto David Wiemer
Bache mit Frischlingen. Foto David Wiemer

Single event or epidemic? Mating behaviour and movement patterns influence the dynamics of animal diseases

Swine fever, rabies, bird flu – outbreaks of diseases in wildlife populations often also affect farm animals and humans. However, their causes and the dynamics of their spread are often complex and not well understood. A team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now carried out an analysis of long-term data of an outbreak of classical swine fever in wild boars in the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that occurred between 1993 and 2000. The results suggest that non-infected regions have a higher risk of infection due to changes in movement patterns, particularly during the mast and rutting seasons (autumn and winter), and thus highlighting the importance  for  focusing intervention  efforts on specific individuals, seasons and areas in the event of future outbreaks. The findings are published in the “Journal of Animal Ecology”.

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Great tit (Parus major); Copyright: Bernard Castelein
Great tit (Parus major); Copyright: Bernard Castelein

Climate changes faster than animals adapt

Climate change can threaten species and extinctions can impact ecosystem health. It is therefore of vital importance to assess to which degree animals can respond to changing environmental conditions – for example by shifting the timing of breeding – and whether these shifts enable the persistence of populations in the long run. To answer these questions an international team of 64 researchers led by Viktoriia Radchuk, Alexandre Courtiol and Stephanie Kramer-Schadt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) evaluated more than 10,000 published scientific studies. The results of their analysis are worrisome: Although animals do commonly respond to climate change, such responses are in general insufficient to cope with the rapid pace of rising temperatures and sometimes go in wrong directions. The results are published in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”.

 

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Cheetah in Planckendael Zoo (The Netherlands). Photo: Ad Meskens (Wikimedia Commons)
Cheetah in Planckendael Zoo (The Netherlands). Photo: Ad Meskens (Wikimedia Commons)

Early first pregnancy is the key to successful reproduction of cheetahs in zoos

Cheetah experts in many zoos around the world are at a loss. Despite all their efforts, these cats often do not reproduce in the desired manner. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), together with colleagues from the Allwetterzoo Münster, have now found a key to the issue: the age of the mothers at the first pregnancy is the decisive factor. In contrast to the wild, felines kept in zoos are often bred only years after they have reached sexual maturity. From the study results, the researchers derive recommendations for keeping cheetahs in zoological gardens. The study was published in the journal "Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research".

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