FIWI Annual Report 2017

The annual report for the year 2017 can now be downloaded by klicking on the cover photo. (Report in German)
Cover of the FIWI Annual Report 2017








FIWI will soon be offering training for a new ÖTK-Diploma in "farm wildlife medicine" an

Male red deer in an enclosure (Photo C. Beiglböck/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Two male red deer in an enclosure 1

Veterinarians from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna (FIWI) have developed a new training programme on medical care for farmed wildlife.  Together with the Chamber of Veterinarians and Dr. Karl Bauer from the Styrian animal health service, Dr. Johanna Painer, Dr. Gabrielle Stalder, and Dr. Christoph Beiglböck worked out the content of a new diploma that will be recognized by the Chamber of Veterinarians. 

Wildlife farming is undergoing an upward trend in Austria, it is being implemented as an alternative land use on remaining greenland areas, often in accordance with organic agriculture production standards with direct marketing.  Keeping wildlife in enclosures is a trend that requires special skills from veterinarians.  Now they will be able to get specialized certified knowledge in this area by completing five course modules within a two year period. 

Courses will start in the spring of 2019.  Further details will be published in due course on the website of the Chamber of Veterinarians. 

More info on ÖTK Diplomas 2

ÖTK Diploma Farmwildmedizin 3

(Web editor, 14 November 2018)


Trading sex for sleep – aging dormice shorten their hibernation for more reproduction

Shortened winter hibernation of aging edible dormice is due to an increase in reproductive activity. (©Jessica Cornils/Vetmeduni Vienna)
Dormice with youngsters in the nestbox 4

Edible dormice are extremely long-lived for their size thanks to their seasonal dormancy. The animals are veritable record holders in this “discipline”, with hibernation periods lasting between at least six and a maximum of eleven months. The factors influencing the variable duration of the hibernation period, apart from the specific environmental conditions, have so far been unknown. Study leader Claudia Bieber and other researchers at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna hypothesised that older animals should shorten their winter dormancy in favour of a reproductive advantage. This hypothesis has now been confirmed in a data analysis, published in Scientific Reports, of dormice populations living in large outdoor enclosures. The shortened winter hibernation of aging males and females were due to an increase in reproductive activity. Older animals also delay the onset of hibernation and emerge earlier in the season.

The article „Effects of aging on timing of hibernation and reproduction 5“ by Claudia Bieber, Christopher Turbill and Thomas Ruf was published in Scientific Reports.

Mehr Info 6

(Web editor, 31 October 2018)


PPR Virus Poses Threat to Conservation

PPR caused a mass mortality of saiga antelope in Mongolia in 2017. (© Munkhduuren/ Mongolian State Central Veterinary Laboratory)
Photo of a dead saiga in the steppe 7

A team of conservation scientists from the Royal Veterinary College, the Wildlife Conservation Society - WCS, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna published a letter in this week’s edition of the renouned journal Science on the threat of the virus peste des petits ruminants (PPR) to conservation.  PPR is a viral disease of sheep and goats, of great significance to the livelihood of rural communities, biodiversity conservation, and national and global economies.

Repeated mass mortality events in wild steppe and mountain ungulates of the Middle East and eastern Asia is raising significant concerns about the conservation impact of this virus. The authors say there is an urgent need to explicitly include wildlife protection as an objective of the PPR global eradication campaign.

According to the researchers, among them Chris Walzer from the Conservation Medicine Unit of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna, the mass mortality of wildlife in the steppes is due to climate change, the spread of pathogens and habitat and resource reduction for wildlife due to agriculture and other human activities. To better understand this disease, Science for Nature and People Partnership SNAPP Steppe Health is gathering a diverse group of animal health and conservation professionals to measure and mitigate the impact of pathogens, such as PPR virus, at the livestock/wildlife interface.

The Scientific Letter PPR virus threatens wildlife conservation 8 by Xavier Fernandez Aguilar, Amanda E. Fine, Mathieu Pruvot, Felix Njeumi, Christian Walzer, Richard Kock and Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba was published in Science.

More info 9

(Web editor, 25 October 2018)


New FWF Project: Plasticity of Ontogenesis of Energy-Saving Mechanisms in Heterothermal Mammals

A fundamental mystery in the regulation of phenotypic flexibility is whether the phenotype of descendants can be optimized by parents to improve offspring performance in response to future food shortage.
Garden dormouse on a tree leaf 10

In the context of global change and increasing frequency of unpredictable climate events, there is growing interest in how well physiological flexibility can buffer organisms from environmental hazards. One key metabolic constraint imposed by environmental fluctuations is food shortage. Heterothermy (daily torpor and hibernation) allows energy savings in response to reduced food availability. But flexibility of heterothermy has almost exclusively been investigated in adult animals. How do conditions of heterothermy expression in juveniles during their development shape the efficiency of torpor? Are individuals born under harsh conditions better prepared to use torpor later in life? Is there a multigenerational epigenetic transmission of heterothermy regulation?

Under a recently approved FWF grant, a team around Dr. Sylvain Giroud 11 will study the developmental sequences of torpor during early-life and their consequences at adulthood and for further generations in a hibernator, the garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus, Rodents) that uses both winter hibernation and daily or prolonged torpor before winter. 

More information on the Austrian Science Fund FWF 12.

(Web editor, 16 July 2018)


Distemper circulating among wildlife in Lower Austria

Red fox (Photo rtaylorimages/Adobe Stockphoto)
Portrait picture of a red fox

In recent weeks several foxes have been brought to FIWI. According to the deliverers, the animals showed predominantly behavioral problems and weakness. The macroscopically unremarkable animals  were subsequently tested for distemper using molecular examination methods (PCR). In a first round 16 out of 19 examined animals tested positive for distemper.

This shows an intensification of the spread of distemper, which has been observed for several years, and has so far predominantly been affecting badgers. The high density of foxes certainly plays a role in this course of events.

In order to continue to observe the further spread and the course of distemper, we continue to ask that dead foxes be delivered to us.

As a precaution, the vaccination of dogs is strongly advised!

For questions the team of our pathology  13is at your disposal.

(Web editor, 27 April 2018)


Owl year 2018: Ural owl cam is online again

Logo of the Habichtskauz project 14
Ida has been breeding in her nest-box since the 24th of March. Hatching is expected towards the end of April. Emil, the owl father, is on feeding duty for Ida. (Webcam screenshot, 25 April 2018)
Screenshot of the webcam with breeding ural owl in nest box 15

The owl year 2018 will probably not go down in history as the most successful breeding year. We assume that the meager beech mast of last year has caused food shortages among the large owls, which probably delayed the start of the breeding season and made it much more difficult for the owls. A few pairs of Ural owls have however started breeding already. We are still cautious with prognostics for the outcome of these broods, but of course we hope for the best.

More than 430 nesting boxes are currently being inspected throughout the project area. This year we can count on the support of more than 70 volunteer helpers. We say thank you!

We are happy to be able to provide you with a view of one Owl's Nest via a webcam 16 again this year! This year we are visiting Ida and Emil. Ida has been hatching a nest since mid-March.

More about project Habichtskauz 17


(Web editor, 25 April 2018)


International Lynx Day on 11 June

Logo International Lynx Day 2018 18

2018 is the first year to celebrate the international lynx day. Different activities of project partners of the European  3Lynx Project 19 and beyond will take place in the heart of Europe on the 11th of June. The Conservation Medicine Unit of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology is a project partner involved in lynx monitoring.  With lynx day the project partners want to raise awareness for a fascinating species that lives in our forests but is very rarely seen. Everyone is invited to participate in the different activities and organize own ones.

On a map, you can see what activities are taking place near you on this day.

More info 18

(Web editor, 25 May 2018)


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 20

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 21" wurde in eLife Science veröffentlicht.

More info 22

(Web editor, 2 March 2018)



News archive... 23



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