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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. +++


Platform "Keep Nature Alive" (Bild: Steven Seet/Unsplash)
Platform "Keep Nature Alive" (Bild: Steven Seet/Unsplash)

To maximize the effectiveness of its scientific findings in addressing the global biodiversity crisis, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) relies on close interaction with society, including the use of innovative multimedia tools. The platform "Keep Nature Alive" (www.keepnaturealive.de), which was recently spun off from the Leibniz-IZW, continues this path: "Keep Nature Alive" combines digital communication and crowdfunding and in this way aims to establish lively and committed communities for projects at the interface of science and environmental protection. In addition, the platform will be accompanied by communication science - as the first of its kind.

Illuminated Paris at night. Bats need to navigate through this mosaic of illuminated spaces and dark corridors.
Illuminated Paris at night. Bats need to navigate through this mosaic of illuminated spaces and dark corridors.

The artificial illumination of the night by lamps is considered a central achievement of civilisation with countless economic, social and cultural benefits for people. For many animals, however, artificial light poses a considerable challenge. Nocturnal and light-shy species are forced to move to dark areas or adjust their behaviour to the new nocturnal brightness. In a paper published in the journal “BioScience”, an international research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) provides an evidence-based overview of the effects of artificial light on European bat species. They find that especially those species that hunt insects in narrow spaces such as forests are very sensitive to artificial light. In contrast, bats hunting along forest edges or in open areas are somewhat more tolerant of artificial light. At roosts or drinking sites all species are distinctly light-shy.

Najin with project head Prof. Hildebrandt and keeper in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)
Najin with project head Prof. Hildebrandt and keeper in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)

While attempting to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction through advanced assisted reproduction technologies, the scientists and conservationists of the BioRescue consortium place the highest value on respecting the life and welfare of the individual animals involved. In a special, in-depth ethical risk assessment, the team has reached the decision to retire the older of the two remaining females, 32-year-old Najin, as a donor of egg cells (oocytes). This leaves the ambitious programme with just one female that can provide oocytes, Najin’s daughter Fatu. Weighing up risks and opportunities for the individuals and the entire species rendered this decision without an alternative. This situation will further strengthen the need for stem cell associated techniques, which are also part of the BioRescue mission as well as long-term biobanking. Najin will remain an important part of the mission as an ambassador for her kind and by transferring social knowledge to future offspring.

Collared cheetah in the Namib Desert (Photo: Ruben Portas)
Collared cheetah in the Namib Desert (Photo: Ruben Portas)

Anthrax is an infectious bacterial disease endemic in some parts of Africa. It affects people, livestock as well as wildlife. Using GPS telemetry data, a team of scientists from the Cheetah Research Project of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) reconstructed a special case of anthrax infection in Namibia: Three free-ranging cheetahs in the Namib Desert died within 24 hours after feeding on a mountain zebra that tested positive for the disease. The zebra is the first described case of a wild animal infected with anthrax in this arid region. The case also shows that there might be previously unknown risks to cheetah populations in the desert. It is described in detail in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Veterinary Science”.

On September 26th not only the elections of the German parliament will take place, but as well of the Parliament of Berlin. With a position paper developed under the umbrella of Berlin Research 50, the non-university institution of Berlin emphasize what is important for science in Berlin. The position paper contains 10 demands that should be implemented by the future senate to strengthen Berlin as science metropolis.

Europasian golden oriole (By Kookaburra 81 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59190887)
Europasian golden oriole (By Kookaburra 81 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59190887)

The ability to adjust to changing environmental conditions is an essential prerequisite for species to cope with climate change. Using stable isotope analysis, a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now unravelled the link between wintering destinations of Eurasian Golden Oriole migrations and rainfall intensities in potential wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Analysing historical feathers from 1818 to 1971, they identified two distinct wintering areas whose use depended on prevailing rainfall intensity. The link between the key migratory overwintering destination and local precipitation demonstrates the dependence of these birds on rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa – a parameter that might change with climate change and related processes of desertification. The results are published in the scientific journal “Global Change Biology”.

Searching for oocytes in the field lab in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Rio the photographer)
Searching for oocytes in the field lab in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Rio the photographer)

In another exciting step towards the future of the northern white rhino, three more pure northern white rhino embryos have been created by the global team of scientists and conservationists working to save the species. This time, they were also able to use sperm from a different bull, improving the genetic diversity of the embryos.

Gefriersperma von Rindern Foto: wikipedia Uwe Muell
Gefriersperma von Rindern Foto: wikipedia Uwe Muell

A research team at the Humboldt University Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) developed an agent-based computer model to simulate the journey of sperm cells through the female genital tract. Key factors for a successful transit could be identified without the use of animal experiments and were published in the scientific journal "PLoS Computational Biology".

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