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. +++

News

Young spotted hyena twin brothers in Ngorongoro Crater. They will likely join the same clan to breed. Photo: Hoener OP/Leibniz-IZW
Young spotted hyena twin brothers in Ngorongoro Crater. They will likely join the same clan to breed. Photo: Hoener OP/Leibniz-IZW

Twin brothers of spotted hyenas are often attracted to the same new group when they disperse from their birth group

In most mammals, males disperse to a new group after reaching sexual maturity. Dispersal often entails costs and is risky. New results from spotted hyenas show that males from the same birth group - and particularly twin brothers - very often disperse together and choose the same group to breed. The coordination is likely the combined result of males having similar preferences when they have a similar social and genetic background, and of related males actively sticking together to support one another.

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Northern White Rhino Nabire at Safari Park Dvůr Králové (photo by Hynek Glos)
Northern White Rhino Nabire at Safari Park Dvůr Králové (photo by Hynek Glos)

BioRescue produces primordial germ cells from northern white rhino stem cells – a world’s first for large mammals

In its race to advance assisted reproduction and stem cell associated technologies to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction, the BioRescue consortium announces a major breakthrough: the creation of primordial germ cell-like cells (PGCLSs) from induced pluripotent stem cells of the northern white rhino Nabire. This milestone was led by specialists from Osaka University, Japan, and has never been achieved in large mammals before. Now there is one last step to master for the production of artificial rhino gametes (eggs and sperm) from preserved tissue. If successful, this would boost the availability and genetic diversity of embryos and become a cornerstone for saving the northern white rhinoceros. The scientists describe the culture systems and processes for the induction of the PGCLCs from stem cells in a newly published paper in the journal “Science Advances”.

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Old forests and riverine habitats in Eastern Ukraine (photo: Yehor Yatsiuk)
Old forests and riverine habitats in Eastern Ukraine (photo: Yehor Yatsiuk)

Bat diversity and abundance are highest in old deciduous forest stands on the river banks in Eastern Ukraine

European forest-dwelling bats require complex woodland structures at both the micro-habitat and the landscape level for successful breeding in summer. Particularly, the results from Kharkiv region (Eastern Ukraine) demonstrate that large stands of mature forests older than 90 years improved the breeding activity of bats, their abundance and overall species richness. Abundance and species richness increased from upland plots surrounded by agricultural lands to riverine or waterside plots with high forest cover. These are the results of a newly published paper in the scientific journal “Forests” by an international team of authors from the Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center (UBRC) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW).

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Wildlife camera photos of various species at cheetah marking trees in Namibia (photos: Cheetah Research Project team)
Wildlife camera photos of various species at cheetah marking trees in Namibia (photos: Cheetah Research Project team)

Cheetah marking trees are hotspots for communication also for other species

Marking trees are important hotspots of communication for cheetahs: Here they exchange information with and about other cheetahs via scent marks, urine and scats. A team from the Cheetah Research Project of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now showed that several mammalian species on farmland in Namibia maintain a network for intra- and interspecific communication at cheetah trees. Black-backed jackals, African wildcats and warthogs visited and sniffed the cheetahs' “places to be” more frequently than control trees, the team concluded from photos and videos recorded by wildlife camera traps in a paper in the scientific journal “Mammalian Biology”. A common prey species of the cheetahs, however, avoided these hotspots.

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Three hyena males with a female (photo: Oliver Höner)
Three hyena males with a female (photo: Oliver Höner)

Sex roles in the animal kingdom are driven by the ratio of females to males

How picky should females and males be when they choose a mate? How fiercely should they compete for mates? And how much should they engage in raising their offspring? The answers to these questions largely depend on the ratio of adult females to males in the social group, population or species. This is the conclusion of a review by a scientific team with the participation of the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research (DPZ), the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence, in foundation, and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW). The paper is published in the journal “Biological Reviews”.

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Nathusius's pipistrelle bat after collision with a wind turbine's rotor blades (photo: Christian Voigt)
Nathusius's pipistrelle bat after collision with a wind turbine's rotor blades (photo: Christian Voigt)

Assessing collision risk of bats becomes inaccurate for large wind turbines

Many bats are at risk of colliding with wind turbines. To prevent this, approval procedures for new turbines require acoustic surveys to assess this risk. The surveys help to identify those conditions under which bats are particularly active in the rotor-swept high-risk zone. Knowing these conditions may then help to formulate curtailment times for the operation of wind turbines to reduce the risk of collision. In a new investigation, a research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) showed that acoustic monitoring is insufficient if bats are unevenly distributed in the risk zone and if the coverage area of the acoustic detectors is too small – conditions typical for large turbines. Acoustic surveys should therefore be accompanied by carcass searches, and acoustic monitoring should be supplemented with additional ultrasonic detectors, for example, at the lower streak point of rotor blades, the team explained in a paper in the scientific journal “Conservation Science and Practice”.

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Sumatran rhino Kertam in Malaysia (photo: Ben Jastram/Leibniz-IZW)
Sumatran rhino Kertam in Malaysia (photo: Ben Jastram/Leibniz-IZW)

A second chance for the Sumatran rhino

Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Kertam, died in 2019. Now, a team from the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin has successfully grown stem cells and mini-brains from his skin cells. As the scientists explain in the journal “iScience”, their next goal is to create sperm cells that may help to save the endangered species from extinction. The Max Delbrück Center develops stem cell associated techniques (SCAT) as part of the BioRescue project, a collaborative effort led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) to develop and apply technologies to save the even more endangered northern white rhinoceros.

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In female-dominated species such as spotted hyenas, animals of both sexes rely less often on aggression and more often on submissive signals and gestures (photo: Oliver Höner)
In female-dominated species such as spotted hyenas, animals of both sexes rely less often on aggression and more often on submissive signals and gestures (photo: Oliver Höner)

Games of power: scientists decode behavioural patterns of dominance between the sexes in mammals

The stronger and more aggressive sex dominates the weaker sex. This simplistic view of male-female dominance relationships is common but falls short of the complexity of how dominance hierarchies are established in animal societies. A team of scientists with participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Leibniz-IZW) now compared intersexual dominance hierarchies of nine group-living mammals using a set of standardised methods and behaviours. They found that the species ranged from being strictly male to strictly female dominated, and that hierarchies were robust with respect to the method applied to construct them. They also found that in female-dominated societies, animals mostly relied on submissive signals and gestures to establish and maintain dominance, whereas in male-dominated societies, they mostly used aggressive behaviours. The results were published in the open access journal “Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution”.

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