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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

Female Gorilla with 8 month old offspring in zoo
Female Gorilla with 8 month old offspring in zoo

Reproducing efficiently in captivity is crucial for the survival of many wildlife species, yet reproductive success is often lower than in the wild. Currently, many zoo population management strategies prioritise the genetic diversity of captive populations. Scientists now argue that a broader perspective is required which also includes behaviour, life-history, husbandry and environmental considerations. This would improve breeding success in zoos and the maintenance of the diversity of traits, behaviours, and phenotypes of threatened species. In a paper published recently in the scientific “Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research” they compare different population management approaches and conclude that prioritizing genetic factors to the exclusion of all others may have detrimental effects: For example, in small groups of unrelated adults, conflicts are likely to be more frequent than in larger groups with relatives present who had the chance to develop differentiated socialisation and learning repertoires.

Foto: Wolf, Canis lupus; Heiko Anders
Foto: Wolf, Canis lupus; Heiko Anders

Germany potentially provides many suitable areas for grey wolf territories. This means that wolves may potentially settle down in large parts of the country where they were extinct until around the year 2000. It should be expected that they will disperse through other areas not delineated as suitable as well. These are the results of a study conducted by the Federal Documentation and Consultation Centre on Wolves (DBBW), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), the Technical University of Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology (Vienna). The study was commissioned and published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Germany.

 

Foto: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program
Foto: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program

Another piece of the puzzle about the longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes has been uncovered. Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes. It is highly likely that SOD2 not only detoxifies the reactive oxygen radicals in the cells, but also inhibits programmed cell death. The results were recently published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports of the Nature Group.

Photo: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program
Photo: Iberian lynx; Ex-situ Iberian lynx program

A research team at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) developed a method to isolate and cryopreserve testicular cells. This will allow the safekeeping and biobanking of gametes and other cells of the male reproductive tract of threatened or endangered feline species. The findings have been published in the scientific journal "Cryobiology".

Common noctule bat (Photo: Kamran Safi, wikimedia commons)
Common noctule bat (Photo: Kamran Safi, wikimedia commons)

Common noctules – one of the largest bat species native to Germany – are searching for their fellows during their hunt for insects above farmland. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) show in a paper published in the journal “Oikos” that bats forage on their own in insect-rich forests, but hunt collectively in groups over insect-poor farmland. They seem to zoom in on places where conspecifics emit echolocations during the capture of insects, an inadvertent clue that reveals high-yielding areas to others. However, “listening” to their hunting companions to find food only works when sufficient numbers of bats forage in the same area. If numbers continue to decline, density could fall below a critical level and joint hunting could become difficult or impossible. This could pose an additional threat to the survival of species such as the Common noctule.

Detail of cheetah fur, Photo: Jan Zwilling
Detail of cheetah fur, Photo: Jan Zwilling

Similar to humans, wild animals’ reaction to disturbance is accompanied by releasing hormones, such as cortisol. To understand the impact of various “stress” factors – for example competition for food, encounters with predators, or changing environmental conditions – on wildlife, scientists first need to determine the baseline levels of relevant hormones for each species. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now uncovered possible pitfalls of the commonly used hormone analysis method that overestimate concentrations of cortisol and thus lead to overstated conclusions. They investigated whether glucocortiocoid hormones deposited in animal hair can be reliable biomarkers to indicate the impact of disturbances. The source of errors in the commonly used antibody-based enzyme immunoassays (EIA) method is described in a recently published article in the scientific journal “Conservation Physiology”.

Naked mole rat at Leibniz-IZW, Photo: Jan Zwilling
Naked mole rat at Leibniz-IZW, Photo: Jan Zwilling

Ageing is an inevitable part of life, yet some species are ageing very differently than others, even than very similar ones. Naked mole rats for example, an east African rodent of a size comparable to moles or mice, show a strongly delayed process of ageing and live up to 30 years. Scientists from Russia, Germany and Switzerland now confirmed a mechanism in mouse, bat and naked mole rat cells – a “mild depolarization” of the inner mitochondrial membrane – that is linked to ageing: Mild depolarization regulates the creation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS) in cells and is therefore a mechanism of the anti-ageing program. In mice, this mechanism falls apart at the age of 1 year, while in naked mole rats this does not occur until ages of up to 20 years. This newly confirmed mechanism is described in detail in a paper published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA”.

City fox on a Berlin railway facility (photo: Jon Andoni Juarez Garcia)
City fox on a Berlin railway facility (photo: Jon Andoni Juarez Garcia)

For wildlife, cities can present new opportunities as well as threats. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) analysed genetic material of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) inhabiting Berlin and its surroundings. They identified two genetically distinct, adjacent “urban” and “rural” fox populations and revealed that physical barriers such as rivers or man-made structures reduce the exchange between these populations but also differences in human activity in these landscapes play a major role. The researchers suggest that avoidance of sites of human activity may drive foxes into costly trade-offs as they prefer to disperse along potentially dangerous transportation infrastructures. The study was recently published in the scientific journal “Molecular Ecology”.

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