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

Dorsal and ventral "fingers" in African elephant's trunk and facial motor nucleus (Figure: Kaufmann et al, Science Advances)
Dorsal and ventral "fingers" in African elephant's trunk and facial motor nucleus (Figure: Kaufmann et al, Science Advances)

Trunk dexterity explained: Berlin scientists decipher facial motor control in elephants

Elephants have an amazing arsenal of face, ear and trunk movements. The trunk consists of far more muscles than the entire human body and can perform both powerful and very delicate movements. A team of scientists from the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now examined the facial motor nucleus of African and Asian elephants, the brain structure that controls the facial muscles of these animals. This nucleus contains more facial motor neurons than in any other terrestrial mammal, the scientists show in a paper published in the journal “Science Advances”. African elephants in particular have particularly prominent neuron clusters for the control of the trunk “fingers”.

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Rangers in the rain forest. Photo: globalwildlife
Rangers in the rain forest. Photo: globalwildlife

Ranger numbers and protected area workforce must increase fivefold to effectively safeguard 30% of the planet’s wild lands by 2030

Ahead of the global meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Montréal, Canada, which decides new targets for nature, the first-ever study of its kind outlines an urgent need for larger numbers and better-supported protected area staff to ensure the health of life on Earth. In a new scientific paper published today in the journal “Nature Sustainability”, an international team of scientists – including two members of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin – argue that there are not enough rangers and other staff to manage even the current protected areas around the world. The authors urge governments, donors, private landowners and NGOs to increase the numbers of rangers and other staff five-fold in order to meet global biodiversity conservation goals that have economic, cultural and ecosystem benefits.

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Spotted hyena with Maasai pastoralist and cattle in Ngorongoro Crater (Photo: Oliver Höner)
Spotted hyena with Maasai pastoralist and cattle in Ngorongoro Crater (Photo: Oliver Höner)

Human-carnivore coexistence is possible: daytime pastoralist activities do not negatively affect spotted hyenas in Tanzania

Pastoralists herding their livestock through the territories of spotted hyena clans along dedicated paths during daytime do not reduce the reproductive performance of hyena clans, nor elevate the physiological ‘stress’ of spotted hyenas. This is the result of a new study led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). The scientists analysed 24 years of demographic and physiological data from eight spotted hyena clans – two of which were exposed to activities by pastoralists. The activities of pastoralists were predictable, diurnal and did not disrupt important behaviours in the mostly nocturnal hyenas. This may have allowed the population to perform well, the scientists suggest. The open access paper is published in the scientific journal “Journal of Animal Ecology”.

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Morganucodon, one of the oldest known mammal-like species (Source: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Morganucodon, one of the oldest known mammal-like species (Source: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Revealing the Genome of the Common Ancestor of All Mammals

An international team has reconstructed the genome organization of the earliest common ancestor of all mammals. The reconstructed ancestral genome could help in understanding the evolution of mammals and in conservation of modern animals. The earliest mammal ancestor likely looked like the fossil animal “Morganucodon” which lived about 200 million years ago. The work is published the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

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Logo of the Biodiversity Genomics Europe consortium (source: BGE)
Logo of the Biodiversity Genomics Europe consortium (source: BGE)

Launched today: new pan-European Biodiversity Genomics Europe (BGE) consortium tackles the biodiversity crisis

European genomic researchers gather to launch an unprecedented project that will tackle the biodiversity crisis using DNA data. The comprehensive application of genomic science to biodiversity research will fundamentally change conservation science and policy – with impacts predicted to be on a scale similar to those of the Human Genome Project in medicine. The new pan-European Biodiversity Genomics Europe (BGE) consortium, launched today, is leading the way. BGE is integrated with the European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA), the pan-European scientific community of experts in genome sequencing, which coordinates the generation of reference-quality genomes for all eukaryotic European species.

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Spotted hyena female with offspring (photo: Oliver Höner/Leibniz-IZW)
Spotted hyena female with offspring (photo: Oliver Höner/Leibniz-IZW)

Family ties change with age and sex and determine how much animals help each other as they become older

The motivation to help conspecifics differs from species to species – and also between males and females. An international team of scientists with the participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now showed for seven group-living animal species that the degree of kinship of an animal to the other group members can change over its lifetime and that this change follows systematic patterns – in spotted hyena females, for example, it decreases over the course of life, whereas it increases in hyena males. These “kinship dynamics” profoundly influence the incentive of an animal to help its groupmates. The results are published in the journal "Nature Ecology & Evolution" and contribute to a better understanding of social behaviour and the emergence of different social systems.

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Red squirrel in Berlin (Photo: Stephanie Kramer-Schadt)
Red squirrel in Berlin (Photo: Stephanie Kramer-Schadt)

Despite frequent sightings: Red squirrel habitats in Berlin are small and fragmented

Red squirrels are among the most commonly sighted wildlife in European big cities such as Berlin. However, their habitats are more reminiscent of a patchwork quilt full of challenges, a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) found out, with the help of computer models and red squirrel sightings by citizen scientists. The models link sightings to numerous environmental parameters and thus become important tools for urban planning, as they identify areas where ecological corridors are missing that could connect fragmented habitats. The work is published in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution”. In a follow-up project, the team aims to fill knowledge gaps on survival, dispersal potential, diet and health of Berlin’s red squirrels.

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Maiden flight of the GAIA tag system (Photo: Jan Zwilling)
Maiden flight of the GAIA tag system (Photo: Jan Zwilling)

Early warning system for environmental changes: Novel animal tags with camera and AI complete maiden flight at Tierpark Berlin

How can a vulture in a Berlin Zoo help its conspecifics and their habitats in Namibia? As a model and patron for a new generation of animal tags: The prototype of an innovative animal tag system developed by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) completed its maiden flight on a vulture at Tierpark Berlin today. The tags will be equipped with sensor-based artificial intelligence (AI), a camera, energy-efficient electronics and satellite-based communication technology. This will allow for entirely new insights into the world of animals and their habitats: The tags detect and transmit animal behaviour in real time and are thus an early warning system for ecological changes.

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