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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

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”.

Anamite striped rabbit (Foto: WWF CarBi Project / Bach Ma NP)
Anamite striped rabbit (Foto: WWF CarBi Project / Bach Ma NP)

Widespread poaching in tropical biodiversity hotspots is causing unprecedented declines in wildlife populations, known as defaunation. A new study published in the journal “Diversity & Distributions”, provides evidence that large-scale systematic surveys and novel methods of data collection and analysis, are necessary to assess the extent and distribution of poaching and its impact on biodiversity in forest exposed to severe defaunation. Mapping biodiversity in this way will provide information critical to protecting rare species that may still exist in these landscapes. The research was conducted in the Annamite mountains on the border of Laos and Vietnam, an area with an exceptionally high occurrence of endemic species that is threatened by illegal poaching through the setting of wire snares. The research team, led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), comprised scientists, conservationists and government counterparts, including representatives from WWF-Vietnam and WWF-Laos.

Cabinet Secretary Hon Najib Balala (Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenia) is watching the procedure Foto: Ami Vitale
Cabinet Secretary Hon Najib Balala (Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenia) is watching the procedure Foto: Ami Vitale

Nairobi, Kenya - In August 2019 a team of scientists and conservationists broke new ground in saving the northern white rhinoceros from extinction. They harvested eggs from the two remaining females, artificially inseminated those using frozen sperm from deceased males and created two viable northern white rhino embryos. With great support from the Kenyan Government and in the presence of Hon Najib Balala, – Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife – the team repeated the procedure on December 17, 2019, and was able to create a new embryo over Christmas. This significantly increases the chances of successfully producing offspring. The procedure has proven to be safe and reproducible, and can be performed on a regular basis before the animals become too old. Preparations for the next steps of the northern white rhino rescue mission are underway.

Since 2012 the Giant Panda Global Awards honour conservation work for the Giant Panda all over the world. Awardees include individual pandas, offspring as well as zoological gardens, veterinary teams, keepers and other personalities with significant achievements in giving these charismatic animals a future on our planet. In the 2019 edition of the awards Prof Dr Thomas B. Hildebrandt was named “Human Panda Personality of the Year” (Gold Award) for remarkable achievements in applying assisted reproduction technologies and imaging techniques in giant panda. 

Lynx Cubs, Photo by Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme
Lynx Cubs, Photo by Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme

The reproduction of lynxes is highly mysterious. Unlike other wild cats, most lynxes are only receptive for a few days once a year. As scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) have already shown in the past, this is a consequence of the long life of corpus lutea in the ovaries which prevents further ovulation during the course of the year. The Berlin team has now achieved another breakthrough in solving the puzzle: they were able to isolate several cell types of corpus luteum from domestic cat tissue and characterise their function in detail with the help of cell cultures. The new method can also be applied to endangered felids such as the Iberian lynx and could advance our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of the longevity of corpus lutea in lynxes. The ultimate goal in practical terms is to induce ovulation with the help of corpus luteum hormones. This would enhance the support for the reproduction of the highly endangered Iberian lynx in breeding programmes.

Preferred commuting routes of common noctule bats above illuminated Berlin (Image: Leibniz-IZW/: ISS047-E-29989 courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)
Preferred commuting routes of common noctule bats above illuminated Berlin (Image: Leibniz-IZW/: ISS047-E-29989 courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)

People can hardly imagine a city without night-time street lighting. But how do nocturnal animals such as bats respond to the illuminated urban landscape? In a recent study, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), together with German and international colleagues, equipped common noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) with mini GPS transmitters and recorded their trajectories in the sky above Berlin. They show that common noctules avoid brightly lit, built-up areas. The metropolitan area of Berlin is therefore mostly unsuitable as a habitat for bats. Dark corridors such as city forests, parks or watercourses, on the other hand, are of great importance for commuting and foraging. The results are published in the journal "Landscape 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