FIWI Annual Report 2016

The FIWI annual report for 2016 (in German only) can be downloaded by klicking on the picture.
Cover Foto of the FIWI Annual Report 2016









Study shows late-born hibernators grow more rapidly than early-born counterparts

Juvenile hibernators, such as the garden dormice, live their life on the fast lane. (Photo: Sylvain Giroud)
Juvenile garden dormouse in a nest box [Link 1]

Juvenile hibernators born late in the reproductive season grow and reproduce faster than their early-born counterparts, but might have a shorter lifespan, says new research by Britta Mahlert and other researchers at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna.  Their observations revealed that those born in August grew and fattened twice as fast as those born in May. Late-born juveniles showed greater torpor use and reached similar body sizes but lower fat content than early-born individuals prior to hibernation. Torpor use was low during growth, suggesting that torpor is not compatible with this stage of development, but increased later to promote fattening and consolidate pre-hibernation fat stores.

The study in garden dormice (Eliomys quercinus) could help us better understand how seasonal animal species respond to early-life conditions, and what impact these responses may have on adulthood and possibly future generations.

Der Artikel "Implications of being born late in the active season for growth, fattening, torpor use, winter survival and fecundity [Link 2]" wurde in eLife Science veröffentlicht.

More info [Link 3]

(Web editor, 2 March 2018)


New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom

Biomimetics offers an innovative approach to solving human problems by imitating physiological strategies of, for example, bears. (Photo: Georg Rauer)
Brown bear standing in a river [Link 4]

The field of biomimetics offers an innovative approach to solving human problems by imitating strategies found in nature. Medical research could also benefit from biomimetics, as a group of international experts from various fields, including a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife ecologists from the Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution of the Vetmeduni Vienna, point out using the example of chronic kidney disease. In future research, they intend to study the mechanisms that protect the muscles, organs and bones of certain animals during extreme conditions such as hibernation.

The article “Novel treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease: insights from the animal kingdom [Link 5]” by Peter Stenvinkel, Johanna Painer, Makoto Kuro-o, Miguel Lanaspa, Walter Arnold, Thomas Ruf, Paul G. Shiels and Richard J. Johnson was published in Nature Reviews.

More info [Link 6]

(Web editor, 19 February 2018)


Free-living greylag geese adjust their heart rates and body core temperatures to season and reproductive context

Greylag geese adapt their body temperature and heartrate to the seasonal climate and thereby optimize their energy budget (Photo Konrad Lorenz Research Center/Uni Wien
Graylag goose family with chicks in a pond [Link 7]

Free-ranging graylag geese adapt their body temperature and heart rate to seasonal requirements, thus optimizing their energy balance. Walter Arnold from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna together with Claudia Wascher and Kurt Kotrschal from the Konrad Lorenz Research Center of the University of Vienna recently published this research in Scientific Reports. In winter, the animals "save" their energy reserves in order to "invest" them in reproduction.

The article "Free-living greylag geese adjust their heart rates and body core temperatures to season and reproductive context [Link 8]" by Claudia Wascher, Kurt Kotrschal and Walter Arnold was published in Scientific Reports .

More info [Link 9]

(Web editor, 1.2.2018)


Mammals move less in human-dominated landscapes

Data from different mammal species were analysed for this study. Among these were movement data of Mongolian wild asses that have been gathered by scientists of the FIWI Conservation Medicine Unit. (Photo P. Kaczensky)
Galloping wild ass herd in the steppe [Link 10]

On average, mammals travel two to three times shorter distances in human-dominated  landscapes than in near-natural or wilderness areas. These results were published today in the journal Science by an international team of researchers with the participation of Petra Kaczensky of the Vetmeduni Vienna Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (Conservation Medicine Unit) under the lead of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center and Goethe University Frankfurt. It is the first time that this topic has been studied at the global level and at the same time for many different species of mammals. The authors emphasize that these results can have far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and thus also for society.

Most mammals are out and about every day, foraging, to find a mate, or looking for shelter. Some larger mammals, such as zebra, usually migrate over longer distances, while smaller mammals, such as rabbits, tend to travel shorter distances. The interdisciplinary research team has now shown that the extent of these migratory movements in human-modified landscapes is greatly reduced. In intensively human-modified- and used landscapes, mammals travel only half to one-third of the distance they travel in more natural areas.

The article  ”Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements [Link 11]”  by Marlee A. Tucker et al. was published on 25 January 2018  in der journal Science.

More info [Link 12]

(Web editor, 26 January 2018)


Hunting dogs as possible vectors for the infectious disease tularaemia

The frequence of Dogs infected with Tularemia pathogens is higher than previously thought. (Photo: Elli Winter/
Hunting dog running with a pheasant in its mouth [Link 13]

Tularaemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an infectious disease that is usually lethal for wild animals such as rabbits, hares and rodents. As a zoonotic disease, however, it also represents a serious health risk for people. While contact with contaminated blood or meat makes hunters a high-risk group, the frequency of infections among hunting dogs has not been much studied. Like hunters, dogs can come into direct contact with infected animals (e.g. when retrieving the game). The prevalence of infections among these animals is therefore an important question to be answered.

Researchers around Annika Posautz from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna have now confirmed a relevant prevalence of infections in Austrian hunting dogs following a serological study in which seven percent of the animals tested positive. This could lead to more intense debate as to whether the often asymptomatic animals represent an additional risk of infection for people.  This question has to be investigated through further studies.

The article „Seroprevalence of Francisella tularensis in Austrian Hunting Dogs“ by Annika Posautz, Miklós Gyuranecz, Béla Dénes, Felix Knauer, Helmut Dier and Christian Walzer was published in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases .

More Info [Link 14]

(Web editor, 19 January 2018)


A multi-national approach to lynx protection in Europe: 3Lynx

The Eurasian lynx was once widespread throughout Europe. In many areas, lynxes have been eradicated by humans. This project concerns the Bohemian - Bavarian lynx population and the Dinaric or Alpine population. These are small isolated populations. All were established by reintroduction of animals from the Carpathian population. (Photo P. Kaczensky)
Lynx in the snow [Link 15]

The Eurasian lynx is a critically endangered species protected by national laws and the EU Habitats Directive. The main threat to the survival of lynxes is illegal killings due to lack of acceptance, and the fragmentation of habitats, which hinders migration. In addition, non-harmonized (national) monitoring and management measures impede a coordinated approach. The challenge is to integrate lynx surveillance, protection and management into a common strategy at the transnational level. The 3Lynx project, in which the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology is involved as a project partner, will do this by protecting three lynx populations in the area Austria, the Czech Republic and Bavaria, as well as Slovenia and Italy.  The capacities of stakeholders can be improved through exchange of experience, data and tools, and the introduction of harmonized lynx monitoring measures at the population level. The project will also be an instrument to actively involve the main stakeholders, hunters and foresters, in the conservation of the lynx.

More info [Link 16]

(Web editor, 15 December 2017)


The wild ass returns

The first group of kulan that were captured in a corral in Altyn Emel National Park. (Photo: John Linnell/NINA)
Khulans running in a corral [Link 17]

For the first time in more than a century, Khulans - or Asian wild asses - roam the central steppes of Kazakhstan. Veterinarians and biologists of the Department of Conservation Medicine (FIWI) of the Vetmeduni Vienna provided technical support for the relocation of the first nine animals.

On October 24, 2017, a first group of animals were brought to an acclimatization enclosure on the edge of the Altyn Dala Reserve in central Kazakhstan. The animals had been transported 1200 kilometers by helicopter from the Altyn-Emel National Park in the southeast of the country. They will be released in the spring. This is the first step in a multi-year project that aims to restore the full range of large herbivores in this unique steppe habitat. Khulans once lived in the Middle East and Central Asia - from the Mediterranean to eastern Mongolia. During the last two centuries, their distribution has been dramatically reduced to less than 3% of their former habitat.

The current project aims to bring 30-40 kulans into the central steppes of Altyn Emel over the next 3-4 years.

More info [Link 18]

(Web editor, 14 November 2017)


Family ties among ural owls in the Vienna Woods

According to recent research, our free-range breeding birds are on average 5 years old. Over the last few years, the average age has steadily increased, indicating that mating is permanent and mortality rates remain low. (Photo © Jessica Winter)
Ural owl in the woods [Link 19]

Genetic examinations allow us to uniquely identify animals and gain insight into their family ties. In this way the identity of 9 out of 10 Habichtskauz breeding pairs (i.e. 18 adult birds in total) in the Vienna Woods could be determined unequivocally.

The 10th breeding pair remained incognito. However, from the genetics of the couple's chicks we were able to conclude that the adult birds are not owls released by us. We assume that they were born unnoticed by us in the Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve. This has probably happened before. Not all broods are detected by the resettlement team. That's why a few more owls may roam through the Vienna Woods and the Dürrenstein wilderness area than our minimum-number estimates suggest.Visitors regularly appear at the release sites (see video [Link 20]).

More info [Link 21]

(Web editor, 31 October 2017)



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