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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

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

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".

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

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.

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

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.

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

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).

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

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”.

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

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”.

 

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

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".

Najin and Fatu, the last two remaining Northern White Rhinoceroses. Photo: Jan Stejskal
Najin and Fatu, the last two remaining Northern White Rhinoceroses. Photo: Jan Stejskal

Today the research project BioRescue for the rescue of the Northern White Rhino, which is threatened with extinction, is officially launched. State-of-the-art reproduction and stem cell technology shall ensure the survival of this key species. The international scientific consortium, led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and with the significant participation of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MCD), is receiving around 4 million Euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the BMBF's biodiversity conservation research initiative. With the successful transfer of an embryo into the uterus of a Southern white rhinoceros at the end of May 2019, the research team has already reached an important milestone. The ethical and social questions arising from BioRescue will be addressed by the scientists in an accompanying research project.

IZW in the media

 

04.06.2021 | BBC News
How to protect birds and bats from wind turbines

02.06.2021 | Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Kontaktbörse am Katzenbaum - Die sozialen Netzwerke der Geparden

01.06.2021 | ZEIT Leo
Wer ist hier der Boss - Zwei Gepardenbrüder in Namibia

27.05.2021 | Pferde.de
Ob blond, ob braun – die Geschichte der Fellfarben beim Pferd

26.05.2021 | ServusTV
Cher und der Elefant

25.05.2021 | Der Tagesspiegel
In Brandenburg werden immer mehr Wölfe getötet

19.05.2021 | BILD
Eltern von Eisbärin Hertha sind Geschwister - Wie gefährlich ist Inzucht bei Tieren?

13.05.2021 | Berliner Zeitung
Wenn einer Braunbärin der Zahn gezogen wird

12.05.2021 | FOCUS
Tote Wölfin «Juli» wird untersucht

10.05.2021 | Bild der Wissenschaft
Magnetsinn im Fledermaus-Auge

07.05.2021 | Nature World News
Animals Can Survive Illnesses Caused by Climate Change Better than Humans?

07.05.2021 | APA Austria
Stu­die: Ein Drit­tel der Schü­ler weiß nicht was Zoo­no­sen sind

06.05.2021 | Econoticias
Los murciélagos tienen un sexto sentido en las córneas

03.05.2021 | Der Tagesspiegel
Kinderwünsche und Umsiedelungen für Nashörner - Alternativen zum Aussterben

02.05.2021 | Spektrum der Wissenschaft
Artenschutz: Hunde haben die Nase vorn

30.04.2021 | Riffreporter
Schicksalsjahr für die Natur: Verhandlungen zu globalem Abkommen stecken fest

29.04.2021 | Der Tagesspiegel
Wie Pferde und Esel Wüsten beleben

28.04.2021 | FOCUS
Weiterer Schritt zur Rettung der Art

26.04.2021 | Bochumer Zeitung
Retroviren schreiben das Koala-Genom um und verursachen Krebs

19.04.2021 | ARD tagesschau24
WISSENSCHECK: Tierparks im Wandel

17.04.2021 | Spektrum der Wissenschaft
Artenschutz in Afrika - Stammtisch der Geparden

14.04.2021 | Greenpeace-Magazin
Dufte Katzenbars: Die Entdeckung von „Kommunikationshotspots“ könnte den Schutz der bedrohten Geparde voranbringen

07.04.2021 | Windkraft-Journal
Artenschutz an Windanlagen: Wie das akustische Monitoring zum Schutz der Biodiversität verbessert werden kann (und sollte)

05.04.2021 | ZDF Terra X
Die Sprache der Tiere

02.04.2021 | Berliner Zeitung
Berliner Forscher bitten zu Ostern zur Hasenjagd

02.04.2021 | Badische Zeitung
Dating in Hyänen-Kreisen: Was für ein Stress

31.03.2021 | Berlin.de
Hase oder doch Kaninchen? Berliner zum Zählen aufgerufen

31.03.2021 | Süddeutsche Zeitung
Hase oder doch Kaninchen? Berliner zum Zählen aufgerufen

30.03.2021 | NABU Berlin
Auch der Osterhase ist ein (Ost-)Berliner - Berliner*innen sollen Feldhasen-Sichtungen in der Stadt melden

30.03.2021 | Horizon Magazine
The curious case of northeast Brazil’s cross-breeding sea turtles

25.03.2021 | Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Genomatlas für Artenschutz: Gen-Entschlüsselung könnte Artenvielfalt bewahren

25.03.2021 | The Guardian
Researchers find the secret of the bunny hop: it's all in the genes

25.03.2021 | MDR
Chemie in Greifvögeln: Pflanzenschutzmittel, Nagetiergift, Ibuprofen und Antibiotika

25.03.2021 | Die Linde
Schlagrisiko von Fledermäusen an Windkraftanlagen verringern

25.03.2021 | FOCUS
Rattengift bedroht Greifvögel

23.03.2021 | Berliner Zeitung
Chemikalien vergiften Greifvögel in Deutschland – und Habichte in Berlin

12.03.2021 | Terra Mater Factual Studios
How to Save a Species When There Are Only Two Females Left