Improving population viability

The research focus on improving population viability is an essential component of the Leibniz-IZW Research Programme and directly contributes to the institute’s mission of conducting evolutionary wildlife research for conservation. With this mission we work towards the vision of understanding and improving the adaptability of wildlife in the face of global change.

Based on a comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary equipment of wildlife and the challenges they face, we develop novel concepts and methods for conservation. We aim to improve population viability on different levels: We develop the scientific basis for conservation decisions and transfer recommendations to conservationists, wildlife professionals, zoological gardens and policy makers. Science-based veterinary interventions are performed directly by Leibniz-IZW staff, e.g., in assisted reproduction. In addition, we implement research projects with stakeholder dialogue as an integral part, in which stakeholders are involved in all stages, from formulating research questions to discussion of the results. Finally, we use our competence in modelling to forecast the consequences of anthropogenic impacts and the success of potential conservation measures.

This programme goal is directly addressed in the following projects, among others:

Evidence-based solutions for the farmer-cheetah conflict in Namibia

Conflicts between humans, their livestock and carnivores are globally widespread. Developing sustainable solutions is challenging, particularly for threatened carnivore species. We demonstrate with the example of cheetahs in Namibia how detailed information on spatial movements of cheetahs can be used by farmers to adapt their cattle management. This results in substantial decrease of cattle losses and thus in reduced killing of cheetahs by farmers.

Reproduction biology of lynx – basic research for conservation breeding of Iberian lynx

Similar to other big predators, Lynx play an important ecological role. The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus Temminck, 1827) was declared as critically endangered (IUCN 2002). We are scientific partners of the conservation breeding program for the Iberian lynx. Due to the captive breeding and reintroduction efforts the lynx population on the Iberian peninsula has been stabilized, hereby unequivocally contributing to the conservation of the local biodiversity. 


BioRescue – Advanced reproductive technologies for saving critically endangered mammals like the northern white rhinoceros

There are only two Northern white rhinos left in the world, both are females. To save these animals from extinction seems impossible under these circumstances. Together with international partners from science and conservation the BioRescue consortium aims at making the seemingly impossible a reality and develops advanced methods of assisted reproduction (aART) and stem cell associated techniques (SCAT). These new methods will be implemented immediately as new science-based interventions for conservation.

Movement ecology of common noctule bats in anthropogenic landscapes

The research of this project is dedicated to the questions of how highly mobile species such as the common noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) survive in intensively used farmland or in city landscapes and which factors influence individual behaviour and local populations.

Health status and diseases in the middle European lowland wolf population

Wolves in Germany are predominantly in the area of conflict between hunters, cattle and sheep breeders, nature conservation associations, politics and the general public. The Leibniz-IZW provides evidence-based research results that form the basis for wolf management in Germany.

Biobanking for assisted reproduction techniques

Assisted reproduction techniques help to maintain the biodiversity. In particular the cryopreservation of gametes is an essential option to preserve the genetic diversity of wild animals and to support breeding programs in zoos.

Setting conservation priorities in the Annamite mountains of Laos and Vietnam

The exceptionally biodiversity and endemism of the Annamite region of Vietnam and Laos is threatened substantially by illegal hunting. We use state of the art systemic biodiversity surveys and statistical models to identify the last strongholds of wildlife.

Behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology of the spotted hyena population in the Ngorongoro Crater

How – and how well – do group-living animals respond to social and environmental change? To address this question, we study the evolution of social behaviour and behavioural and evolutionary processes shaping the life history and fitness of group-living animals using an entire population of wild spotted hyenas (eight groups, more than 2500 individuals) that we have been monitoring since 1996 and for which we compiled an almost complete genetic pedigree across nine generations.

Wildlife endocrinology

Wildlife endocrinology is largely based on non-invasive monitoring of reproductive and adrenocortical hormones of zoo-and wildlife. Our laboratory has the expertise, reagents and instruments availalbe for related research and is experienced in method development and validation for a variety of species and matrices. Most commonly explored matrices in our laboraty are faeces, urine and hair.