FIWI Annual Report 2015

The annual report for 2015 (in German) can be downloaded here (click on the image).
Cover photo of the annual report 2015




Citizen Science: The first scientific publication on the project StadtWildTiere (urban wildlife) is out

Foxes are frequently seen in Vienna´s gardens and parks. (Photo Archive StadtWildTiere)
Fox on a road [Link 1]

Our team "StadtWildTiere" (urban wildlife) is pleased to announce that their first short publication on the project is now online.  The project team presents first results of project activities that were begun in 2015.  Public parks, gardens and other urban green spaces provide habitat for foxes, badgers and other mammals, and also for birds, reptiles and amphibians.  An impressive 3384 wildlife sightings were collected via the  Internet-Plattform [Link 2] of the project [Link ] between 27 May 2015 and 9. February 2016

The article „Where pathways cross: citizen science project StadtWildTiere in Vienna, Austria [Link 3]" by Richard Zink and Theresa Walter was published OPEN ACCESS (free for all) in the online journal Frontiers.

(Web editor, 9 September 2016)


High food availability slows down cell aging in edible dormice

The research team analyzed DNA and hence the length of the telomeres in saliva of the dormouse to describe the cell age. The so called arousals increase the cell aging of the dormouse. High food availability during the active phase not only compensates this effect, it also rejuvenates the cells. (Photo: Vetmeduni Vienna)
Young edible dormice in nest box [Link 4]

Hibernation has long been considered the secret behind the relatively long lifespan of the edible dormouse. However, a team of researchers from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (FIWI) has now shown for the first time that high food availability during the active season in summer contributes to a long life. Increased food availability during this time allows the animals to slow their cellular aging. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

“Telomeres get shorter with every cell division and are therefore considered a biological marker of ageing”, explains Franz Hoelzl from Vetmeduni Vienna’s FIWI. Telomeres form protective caps at the ends of the chromosomes to prevent genomic degradation. When the telomeres become too short, cell division is no longer possible and the cell looses the potential to divide and dies. It had previously been assumed that the slow-down of body functions during hibernation was responsible for decreasing the rate of telomere degradation. The edible dormouse’s long torpor-phases would thus contribute to its high life expectancy.

The article „Telomere dynamics in free-living edible dormice (Glis glis): the impact of hibernation and food supply [Link 5]“ by Franz Hölzl, Jessica S. Cornils, Steve Smith, Yoshan Moodley and Thomas Ruf was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

More info [Link 6]

(Web editor, 2 September 2016)


Caught in the wire: The rise of border security fences forces reconsideration of wildlife conservation strategies in Eurasia

The migration of Asiatic wild ass in the Gobi is cut off by border fences. (Photo P. Kaczensky)
Photo of wild ass at the border fence [Link 7]
Fences can be deadly obstacles for wildlife. (Photo Dejan Kaps)
Photo of a dead red deer caught in a fence [Link 8]

Between 25.000 and 30.000 kilometres of wire fences and walls surrounds the borders of many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This is killing wildlife that becomes entangled and acts as a barrier to wildlife movements, cutting species off from important seasonal habitats. The long-term consequences are a lower viability of wildlife populations, and a reduction in their ability to respond to climate change. This situation forces a re-think of transboundary conservation strategies.

Petra Kaczensky from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology and colleagues from various international research institutions present for the first time an overview of the current situation and the resulting challenges, including for species conservation.  

The article "Border security fencing and wildlife: the end of the transboundary paradigm in Eurasia? [Link 9]" by Linnell, J.D.C., Trouwborst, A., Boitani, L., Kaczensky, P., Huber, D., Reljic, S., Kusak, J., Majic, A., Skrbinsek, T., Potocnik, H., Hayward, M.W., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Buuveibaatar, B., Olson, K.A., Badamjav, L., Bischof, R., Zuther, S. & Breitenmoser, U.  was published in the journal PLoS Biology.

(Web editor, 22.6.2016)


Antibiotic resistance in wildlife

Multi-resistant bacteria were found in a wild mouflon (Photo Petra Karstedt (User admin at CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo of a mouflon

Infections with antibiotic-resistent bacteria have become an increasing problem in medical treatment.  But humans are not the only ones affected.  Researchers at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, together with colleagues from the Working Group for Clinical Microbiology and Animal Hygiene, have examined European mouflons for the presence of resistant bacteria. They found bacteria from the family Enterobacteriaceae in one of the examined animals.  Since the examined mouflons were free-ranging specimens and had not been treated with antibiotics, it is likely that the animal acquired the bacteria from its natural environment, where human often pass through as well.  Before this study a team around Dr. Chris Walzer had found out that migratory rooks and resident crows also carry these bacteria.  They have also been found in several other species of wildlife.  

The article "Characterization of ESBL- and AmpC-Producing and Fluoroquinolone-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Isolated from Mouflons (Ovis orientalis musimon) in Austria and Germany [Link 10]" by Igor Loncaric , Christoph Beiglböck, Andrea T. Feßler, Annika Posautz, Renate Rosengarten, Chris Walzer, Ralf Ehricht, Stefan Monecke, Stefan Schwarz, Joachim Spergser und Anna Kübber-Heiss was published in May 2016 in the international journal PLOS One.

(Web editor, 10 June 2016)


Shy wild boars are sometimes better mothers

With sufficient food shy wild boar mothers will raise more young. (Photo: Sebastian Vetter/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Photo of wild boar mother with piglets [Link 11]

The personality of wild boar mothers can affect the wellbeing of their young, as a team from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine has found out. In a multi-year study of reproductive strategies of wild boars, Sebastian Vetter and fellow researchers investigated whether and under what circumstances the personality of the wild boars affected the number of offspring reared. The study revealed that, when sufficient food is available, shy wild boar mothers raise more young than risk-taking, aggressive females. When the availability of food (e.g. acorns) becomes scarce, however, there is no longer an advantage for shy females. 

The article „Shy is sometimes better: personality and juvenile body mass affect adult reproductive success in wild boars, Sus scrofa [Link 12]” by Sebastian G. Vetter, Constanze Brandstätter, Marie Macheiner, Franz Suchentrunk, Hanno Gerritsmann, and Claudia Bieber was published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

More info [Link 13]

(Web editor, 3 June 2016)


New book on wild horses and their relatives

The new book "Wild Equids" is a comprehensive source of information on wild equine relatives, such as zebras. (Foto: Petra Kaczensky/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Photo of zebras in the water [Link 14]

Wild equids such as zebra, wild ass, and wild horses are an endangered, but little known group of equines.  People are more familiar with the domestic horse and donkey than with their wild relatives, about whom astonishingly little is known.  In their new book "Wild Equids - Ecology, Management, and Conservation" the editors and authors Petra Kaczensky of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna and Jason Ransom of the US National Park Service summarize current international research results from various wild equid experts.  The book combines information on behaviour, way of life, habitat use, and genetics with concepts for the protection of these charismatic species.  It also emphasises people´s role and explains important key words, such as differential interpretations of the meaning of "wild".  The book is published in English language by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

More info [Link ]

(Web editor, 1 June 2016)


Origin of dromedary domestication discovered

Dromedaries have always been used for transportation in deserts (Photo: Raziq Kakar)
Photo of a caravan of dromedaries [Link 15]
PNAS cover of the 14 June 2016 issue [Link 16]

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 journal PNAS highlighted the article by placing a camel on the cover [Link 17] of its June 14, 2016 issue.

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 18].  [Link ]

More info [Link 19]

(Web editor, 10 May 2016)



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