FIWI Annual Report 2015

The new FIWI annual report 2015 can be downloaded here (in German only).




Origin of dromedary domestication discovered

Dromedaries have always been used for transportation in deserts (Photo: Raziq Kakar)
Photo of a caravan of dromedaries [Link 1]

Dromedaries have been used for transportation in desert regions for over 3,000 years. Until now, however, it was not known exactly where they were first domesticated or which genetic structure was selected in the process. A team of researchers including Pamela Burger of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna has now managed to answer these questions. With samples taken from nearly 1,100 extant dromedaries and from bone finds of wild, one-humped camels, they identified the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula as the origin of the domesticated dromedary. The researchers also showed that the dromedaries, unlike other domesticated animals, have maintained extensive gene flow in the modern population. This high genetic diversity has enabled the dromedary to adapt to difficult environments and climatic change.

The scientific article “Ancient and modern DNA reveal dynamics of domestication and cross-continental dispersal of the dromedary” was published in the journal PNAS [Link 2].  [Link ]

More info [Link 3]

(Web editor, 10 May 2016)


On hidden camera - Ural owls LIVE

Most of the time mother Frieda is huddling in the box, keeping her chicks warm. (c) Vetmeduni Vienna
Screenshot of mother bird Frieda [Link 4]
When Frieda is away, one can see the two youngsters in the box very well. (c) Vetmeduni Vienna
Screenshot of the two young birds [Link 5]

This year the team of biologists around Dr. Richard Zink [Link 6], who has been leading the successful Austrian Ural owl re-introduction project [Link 7] for a number of years, has thought up something special: via a hidden camera anyone can gain  insights into life in the nesting box  [Link 8] of Ural owl parents  "Frieda" and "Archimedes".  On 14. April the chicks hatched - how exciting!  

In addition, on the project´s facebook page [Link 9] one gets regular updates about events and the project´s progress. 

(Web editor, 3 May 2016)


Britta Mahlert is awarded a prize of the DZG for her Master´s thesis on juvenile garden dormice

Britta Mahlert received a prize from the German Zoological Society for her outstanding Master´s thesis. Pictured here during the award ceremony from l. to r..: BOKU Senate chair Hubert Hasenauer, BOKU Rector Martin Gerzabek, thesis supervisor Sylvain Giroud (Vetmeduni Vienna), Britta Mahlert, Klaus Hackländer (BOKU) (Foto: privat)
Photo of award ceremony [Link 10]

On 1 April 2016 the biology student Britta Mahlert was awarded a German Zoological Society (DZG) prize for an outstanding Master´s thesis with a zoological focus.  She wrote on "Difference in torpor use, growth and pre-hibernation fattening between early and late-born juvenile garden dormice (Eliomys quercinus) [Link 11]".  The young biologist undertook her research on dormice at the Research of Wildlife Ecology of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, under the guidance of FIWI scientist Sylvain Giroud.  She was enrolled in the Master Programm "Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management" of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU).  Congratulations!

(Web editor, 4 April 2016)




World Wildlife Day 2016 - FIWI also engages in wildlife protection

 [Link 12]
 [Link ]

The 3rd of March marks the international World Wildlife Day [Link ].  This day, which was officially proclaimed by the UN General Assembly coincides with the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  This year´s thematic focus is the fight against wildlife-related crime.  The Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (FIWI) of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, routinely elaborates new practical concepts for the wildlife conservation and welfare. 

The UN´s World Wildlife Day celebrates the beauty and diversity of wild populations, but it also reminds us of the threats to biodiversity through human actions.  FIWI´s research results from field research, molecular analysis, chemical fine analysis, and even mathematical modeling, are also used for wildlife conservation.  "Research of the needs and behaviour of wildlife in ecological contexts is among our principal tasks," says wildlife expert and Department head Walter Arnold. „Our results contribute to creating a basis for the life of wild animal species in human-dominated landscapes." 

The special focus of World Wildlife Day 2016 on wildlife crime is also relevant for FIWI´s work.  FIWI scientists routinely examine illegally killed wildlife on behalf of authorities, nature conservation and hunting organizations. This pathological diagnosis [Link 13] contributes significantly to solving such cases.

It may also be interesting to note that on 26 February 2016 the European Commission adopted an EU Action Plan to tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU [Link 14] and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. The Action Plan is an ambitious blueprint that mobilises all EU diplomatic, trade and development cooperation tools to crack down on what has become one of the most profitable criminal activities worldwide.

(Web editor, 3 March 2016)


Checking the health of captive rhinos

The southern white rhinoceroses are considered easy to keep in captivity. (Photo: Chris Walzer/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Photo of a white rhino by Chris Walzer [Link 15]

White rhinoceroses are an endangered species. Their proper captive management in zoos is therefore of great importance. Annika Posautz, Felix Knauer and Chris Walzer from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at Vetmeduni Vienna investigated, among other things, how the housing conditions of southern white rhinoceroses differed in zoos across Europe and which health problems were most common. Through an online survey to various zoos in Europe they gathered information about the sorts of problems encountered in captive animal management. The survey showed that rhinoceroses are often treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs without proper diagnosis. Actual diseases may be overlooked as a result. 

The article „Health and health management of captive white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum): results from an online survey [Link 16]“ by Annika Posautz, Felix Knauer, and Christian Walzer was published in the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research.

More info [Link 17]

(Web editor, 25 February 2016)


Claudia Bieber habilitates in animal ecology

Claudia Bieber habilitated in the area of animal ecology. (Photo: Claudia Bieber/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Photo of Claudia Bieber

The zooligist Dr. Claudia Bieber of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (FIWI) of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna recently habilitated in her special research area, animal ecology.  Within the framework of her habilitation thesis Dr. Bieber researched the influence of fluctuating environmental conditions on the optimal timing of reproduction in wildlife species. 

Bieber specialized early in the field of animal ecology, which researches the relations between animals and their environment.  During her research at the University of Marburg Bieber concentrated on the edible dormouse (Glis glis). At FIWI she broadened the spectrum of her research subjects to common dormice and wild boars [Link 18].  Her main interest is in the influence of environmental conditions on life history strategies. 

More info (in German)
 [Link 19]

(Web editor, 18 January 2016)


First discovery of a hibernating primate outside Madagascar

Pygmy slow loris are the first known hibernating primates outside Madagaskar. (Photo: Tilo Nadler)
Photo of a pygmis slow loris [Link 20]

Up to now, three species of lemurs on Madagascar were the only primates known to hibernate. Now a team at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vetmeduni Vienna, collaborating with colleagues from the Vietnamese Endangered Primate Rescue Center, has discovered another primate that hibernates: the pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus).

The researchers found out that the examined slow lorises repeatedly showed hibernation episodes lasting up to 63 hours between December and February. The underlying reason is likely an endogenous annual clock, which induces hibernation at a time of the year when food abundance is decreasing. However, it is also the decreasing ambient temperature that triggers hibernation. During the cold season food is sparse. Hibernation then helps to save energy.

The article „Hibernation in the pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus): multiday torpor in primates is not restricted to Madagascar [Link 21]” by Thomas Ruf, Ulrike Streicher, Gabrielle L. Stalder, Tilo Nadler and Chris Walzer was published in Scientific Reports of the Nature Publishing Group.

More info [Link 22]

(Web editor,  3 December 2015)



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