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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. +++

News

Pipistrellus bat (Photo: Christian Giese)
Pipistrellus bat (Photo: Christian Giese)

Some bat species are more likely to be found in cities than in the countryside. A scientific team from Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Greifswald, the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now investigated which characteristics are typical for urban and rural bats. The team found that bat species with higher affinity to cities are characterised by relatively low frequencies and long durations of their echolocation calls, a small body size and flexibility in the choice of their daytime roost. The increasing urbanisation of rural areas could favour these species, while relatively large species with high calling frequencies and short calling durations, as well as a specific roost choice could fall behind, the team argues in a paper in the journal “Global Change Biology”.

Common noctule bat with GPS tag (photo: Manuel Roeleke)
Common noctule bat with GPS tag (photo: Manuel Roeleke)

Social hunting strategies are already well documented in many animal species when prey is distributed in an unpredictable way across the landscape. In a new research paper, Manuel Roeleke and his team from the University of Potsdam and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have now demonstrated for the first time that animals – in this case the common noctule bat – join together and form a mobile sensory network in order to increase their chances of finding their prey. The analyses published today in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” show that predators can adjust to variable environmental conditions through flexible foraging strategies by networking with conspecifics.

Stechlinsee. Foto: Solvig Zankl/IGB
Stechlinsee. Foto: Solvig Zankl/IGB

Bacterial communities are often well adapted and stable in a particular environment whether it be a human mouth or a lake. Humans are altering environments at an increasing rate, none more so than in cities and their surroundings in the process of urbanization. In a study published today in the journal “Science of the Total Environment“, led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) as part of the Leibniz Research Alliance “Infections”, bacterial communities were examined in urban water bodies and wastewater in Berlin and compared to less anthropogenically influenced lakes from surrounding rural regions. The results reveal that urbanization introduces large amounts of nutrients, chemical pollutants and antimicrobial products, and thereby changes the makeup of the microbiome by favouring groups of bacteria that contain human pathogenic bacteria, with yet unknown consequences for ecosystem functioning and human and animal health.

Bats at wind turbines. Picture: Leibniz-IZW
Bats at wind turbines. Picture: Leibniz-IZW

As more and more wind turbines (WTs) are installed in the course of the energy transition and distance regulations to human settlements are tightened, suitable locations are becoming increasingly difficult to find. As a result, wind turbines are increasingly being erected in forests – to the detriment of forest specialists among bats. In a new study, a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) demonstrated that forest specialists among bats, which forage below the treetop and thus do not have an increased risk of colliding with turbines, avoid the vicinity of wind turbines. Forest sites should therefore either not be used at all for wind turbines, or only in exceptional cases with mandated compensatory measures to protect forest bats, the team concludes in a paper now published in the “Journal of Applied Ecology”.

African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus). Photo: Jan Zwilling
African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus). Photo: Jan Zwilling

Vultures perform important ecosystem functions as they clean the landscape by eating carcasses and thus limit the spread of wildlife diseases. Yet, vulture populations are rapidly declining, mainly owing to intentional and unintentional poisoning. Against this background, an international team of scientists performed the first comprehensive comparative analysis of movement data of three species of threatened Gyps vultures across Africa. They found that individual home ranges can be as large as 75,000 km² and thus significantly exceed existing protected areas. These results are published in the journal “Biological Conservation”. Clearly, larger “Vulture Safe Zones” need to be established to safeguard vulture populations. A new project at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) aims to further advance scientific evidence for vulture conservation through newly developed tags equipped with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of things (IoT) communication technology in satellite networks.

Schlagopfer einer Windkraftanlage, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW
Schlagopfer einer Windkraftanlage, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW

The numerous casualties of bats at wind turbines (WT) have a negative impact on the populations of affected species and potentially far-reaching consequences for the biodiversity in rural areas. Until now, it could only be assumed that the death of bats had further consequences. Now, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) show in a paper in the scientific journal "Conservation Science and Practice" that natural food chains are interrupted, which can have far-reaching negative consequences for agriculture and forestry. The study demonstrates the extent to which the functional importance of bats for habitats has been underestimated so far.

Female hyena with snare injuries carries her cub in the Serengeti (photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW
Female hyena with snare injuries carries her cub in the Serengeti (photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW

Indiscriminate snaring for bushmeat hunting may have varying collateral effects on non-target species, ranging from mild injuries to death. Beyond immediate mortalities these effects are rarely examined. A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now analysed the life-history consequences of debilitating snare injuries in individually known female spotted hyenas between 1987 and 2020 in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. The long-term data revealed that injuries did not decrease the age expectancy of the hyenas, but hampered their reproductive performance. Debilitating injuries caused by snares delayed their age at first reproduction, decreased the size of their litters and reduced the survival of their offspring. These findings are published in the scientific journal “Animal Conservation”.

Killed bat under a wind turbine, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW
Killed bat under a wind turbine, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW

Protected and rare bats regularly die at wind turbines (WT). This is why the operation of new wind turbines is temporarily curtailed during periods of high bat activity. Old wind turbines run without curtailment, however. A scientific team led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now produced an exemplary estimate of bat fatality rates at such old turbines by systematically recording bat carcasses in the vicinity of the turbines. During two months, 70 bats died on average per wind turbine. Even if these figures cannot be extrapolated one-to-one to all 20,000 old turbines in Germany, there is a considerable need for action. The operation of old turbines should be adjusted to the current regulations for new turbines, the authors argue in an article published in the scientific journal “Global Ecology and Conservation”.

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