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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

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

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.

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

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.

BioRescue (Photo: Jan Zwilling)
BioRescue (Photo: Jan Zwilling)

Three years after starting its ambitious programme to save the northern white rhino from extinction through advanced assisted reproduction technologies, the BioRescue consortium draws a positive interim conclusion: Following the 10thevent of harvesting immature egg cells (oocytes) in the northern white rhino female Fatu, the international team produced 5 additional embryos – bringing the total to 22 sired by two bulls. This nourishes the hope to eventually succeed in producing new offspring and give a keystone grazer of Central Africa a new future. At the same time, the consortium places the highest value on respecting the life and welfare of the individual animals involved. Regular veterinary and ethical assessments of oocyte collection procedures show that Fatu handles the procedures well and shows no signs of detrimental health effects. BioRescue is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Spotted hyenas (Photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW)
Spotted hyenas (Photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW)

Scientific analyses indicate that in humans several factors such as traumatic experiences during childhood have long-term effects on health and life expectancy. A team from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now demonstrated the important influence of maternal, social and ecological factors during early life on survival, longevity and reproductive performance of female adult spotted hyenas: For example, the social status of the mother had a significant, positive effect on the reproduction of the following generation. On the other hand, being born to an elder mother or growing up during a period of increased rainfall reduced survival and longevity. The authors suggest in their paper, published in the scientific journal “Journal of Animal Ecology”, that the combination of specific conditions during early life may matter more than the simple accumulation of either beneficial or adverse conditions to predict life prospects in wildlife populations.

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”.