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Leibniz-IZW condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research strongly condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine. The Leibniz-IZW employs Ukrainian scientists, is very concerned about our scientific colleagues in Ukraine and will support scientists in Ukraine to the best of our ability.

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. +++


White-tailed sea eagle (photo: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Ian McCarthy)
White-tailed sea eagle (photo: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Ian McCarthy)

Toxic lead ammunition used by hunters has long been shown to kill raptors – or birds of prey – by contaminating their food. A new investigation carried out by scientists from Germany and the United Kingdom uses data on lead levels in the livers of thousands of dead raptors to calculate the impact of lead poisoning on their population size. This first-ever analysis shows that Europe is missing at least 55.000 adult raptors because of lead poisoning, with populations of white-tailed sea eagles 14 % lower and golden eagles 13 % lower than they would otherwise be. The research is published in the scientific journal “Science of the Total Environment”.

Onshore windmills (photo: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt)
Onshore windmills (photo: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt)

Many bat species seasonally migrate over long distances across Europe, using the coastline of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea as corridors. Coastal areas are also suitable locations for wind turbines, which can be fatal for bats. An investigation led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) on how common noctules use the air space in coastal regions shows that onshore wind turbines at the coast are increasingly restricting the habitat available to migrating bats. Therefore, the remaining refuges should be protected when deciding on areas designated for wind energy production, and new turbines should not be erected near foraging grounds or day roosts, the scientists conclude in the paper published in the "Journal of Environmental Management". Otherwise, the expansion of wind power in Germany will have negative consequences not only for native bats, but also for migrating bats from north-eastern Europe.

Annamite striped rabbit (photo: Leibniz-IZW & WWF-Viet Nam & Song Thanh National Park)
Annamite striped rabbit (photo: Leibniz-IZW & WWF-Viet Nam & Song Thanh National Park)

Effective conservation strategies are required to address accelerating extinction rates across the globe. In order to be effective, these strategies need to rely on scientific knowledge about ecology, distribution and population status of threatened species. Using wildlife cameras, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), WWF-Viet Nam, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, Re:wild and FFI Vietnam have provided new insights through a large-scale assessment of the occurrence and distribution of the Annamite striped rabbit and two Annamite dark muntjacs in six sites in Viet Nam and Laos. The team identified factors that influence the occurrence of these threatened endemics, and provided prediction maps for these sites. The data and maps for all species are published in the scientific journal “Conservation Science and Practice”.

Northern white rhino oocyte collection in January 2022 in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)
Northern white rhino oocyte collection in January 2022 in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)

In two sets of procedures between October 2021 and February 2022 the BioRescue consortium created two new northern white embryos, bringing the total to 14. Oocytes (egg cells) were collected from northern white rhino Fatu in October and January at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, and were matured and inseminated at Avantea laboratory, Italy. The developed embryos were cryopreserved in November 2021 and February 2022, and await transfer to southern white rhino female surrogates in the foreseeable future.

Markiertes Eber-Spermium, Foto: P. Kroh, Leibniz-IZW
Markiertes Eber-Spermium, Foto: P. Kroh, Leibniz-IZW

A scientific team from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HUB) and the Leibniz Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered a previously unknown localisation of the porcine sperm protein 'AWN', strengthening the assumption that this protein is involved in sperm-egg fusion. The new findings are important for assisted reproduction. The results were published in the journal "Biology of Reproduction".

Biodiversity and the Earth BioGenome Project (photos: J. Zwilling/O.Krone/unsplash/EBP)
Biodiversity and the Earth BioGenome Project (photos: J. Zwilling/O.Krone/unsplash/EBP)

Sequencing the genomes of all plants, animals, fungi and other microbial life on Earth is a strategy to foster better understanding, management and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and scientists working on the European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA) work hand in hand with the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) on this mission – building a global network of scientists as well as strengthening sequencing expertise and capacity. The EBP is now entering a new phase as it moves from pilot projects to full scale “production” sequencing. This new phase is marked with a collection of papers published this week in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA” (PNAS), describing the project’s goals, achievements to date and next steps.

Citizen Scientists with a bat detector (photo: Ch. Häberle/Leibniz-IZW)
Citizen Scientists with a bat detector (photo: Ch. Häberle/Leibniz-IZW)

Urbanisation is a notable threat to bat populations all over the world, especially through artificial light and the reduction of habitat and food supply. If certain conditions are met, some spaces within metropolitan areas can be suitable for bats, so managing these spaces appropriately could contribute to bat conservation. With the help of more than 200 citizen scientists in Berlin, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) examined these conditions and investigated how they affect the abundance and distribution of bat species. They conclude that maintaining a low level of artificial light at night is important for all bats in cities. In addition, access to vegetation and water bodies is essential for many of them. The results and conclusions are published in the scientific journal “Environmental Pollution”.

Red Fox, Garden in Berlin, Camera Trap, Foto: Leibniz-IZW
Red Fox, Garden in Berlin, Camera Trap, Foto: Leibniz-IZW

Avoid or compete, eat or be eaten, exploit or cooperate – biotic communities are shaped by species interactions in many different ways. Urban environments represent a special case as human presence and influence may have fundamentally changed the rules of the game. Around 150 wildlife cameras installed by Berlin citizen scientists in their gardens in five rounds from autumn 2018 to autumn 2020 produced tens of thousands of photographs. Their analysis by a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) sheds light on how foxes, racoons, martens and cats get along with people and with each other in the city: All three wild species used the same localities, but with little temporal overlap during the night. All wild species avoided domestic cats. And during lockdowns they were more often recorded, especially at night. These and more insights are published in a recent article in the “Journal of Animal Ecology”.

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