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In Svalbard reindeer the inner clock is always ticking

All animals have an internal clock with a cycle length that deviates slightly from 24 hours, and that synchronizes based on cues from external "timers", usually the daily change from day to night. It was uncertain whether this internal clock also functions in the Polar Regions, where there is continuous darkness for months during winter and steady light in the summer. A research team led by Walter Arnold from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vetmeduni Vienna examined this question for wild reindeer on Svalbard, using for the first time a high-resolution telemetry system. They studied not only the behavior, but also the physiology of the animals. They found that - contrary to earlier findings - a circadian rhythm persists throughout the year.

The article “Circadian rhythmicity persists through the Polar night and midnight sun in Svalbard reindeer” by Walter Arnold, Thomas Ruf, Leif Egil Loe, R. Justin Irvine, Erik Ropstad, Vebjørn Veiberg and Steve D. Albon was published in Scientific Reports.

(Web editor, 16 November 2018)

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

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

ÖTK Diploma Farmwildmedizin

(Web editor, 14 November 2018)

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

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“ by Claudia Bieber, Christopher Turbill and Thomas Ruf was published in Scientific Reports.

Mehr Info

(Web editor, 31 October 2018)

PPR Virus Poses Threat to Conservation

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 by Xavier Fernandez Aguilar, Amanda E. Fine, Mathieu Pruvot, Felix Njeumi, Christian Walzer, Richard Kock and Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba was published in Science.

More info

(Web editor, 25 October 2018)

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

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 will study the developmental sequences of torporduring 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.

(Web editor, 16 July 2018)

Distemper circulating among wildlife in Lower Austria

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 is at your disposal.

(Web editor, 27 April 2018)

Hunting dogs as possible vectors for the infectious disease tularaemia

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

(Web editor, 19 January 2018)

Owl year 2018: Ural owl cam is online again

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 again this year! This year we are visiting Ida and Emil. Ida has been hatching a nest since mid-March.

More about project Habichtskauz


(Web editor, 25 April 2018)

International Lynx Day on 11 June

2018 is the first year to celebrate the international lynx day. Different activities of project partners of the European  3Lynx Project 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

(Web editor, 25 May 2018)

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

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" wurde in eLife Science veröffentlicht.

<link en infoservice presseinformation presse-releases-2018 study-shows-late-born-hibernators-grow-more-rapidly-than-early-born-counterparts>More info

(Web editor, 2 March 2018)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Dr. Claudia Bieber as expert in an interdisciplinary talk at Krinzinger Lesehaus

On Sunday, June 24, 2018, 11 a.m. in the Lesehaus Untermarkersdorf there will be an interdisziplinäres discussion panel with the writer Lukas Bärfuss, the artist Michael Günzburger and the biologist Dr Claudia Bieber from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna.  The panel is organized by the Galerie Krinzinger

Lukas Bärfuss is the author and translator of novels, plays and essays and has received numerous literary awards. Animals play a central role in his work. He asks about our longing, about fear/hope for "contact" with animals.

Michael Günzburger engages in drawing, printmaking and art installations. He has developed a method to record the imprint of an animal lithographically precise. Every single hair becomes visible - the animals appear in an immediacy never seen before. The joint project "Contact" has been published in book form by Edition Patrick Frey, 2018.

Claudia Bieber is a wildlife biologist and researches and teaches at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

The interaction between science and art promises to be exciting.

(Web editor, 8 June 2018)

Wildlife science at the organic field days in Donnerskirchen, 15-16 June 2018

From 15 to 16 June 2018, the first Austrian organic field days will take place at the organic farming estate Esterhazy in Donnerskirchen, Burgenland, with around 150 exhibitors and more than 50 speakers. Conservation experts will conduct field trips, researchers will show posters, and chefs and herbalists will demonstrate sustainable and healthy cooking in the show kitchen.

Some wildlife experts from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Vetmeduni Vienna, will be present with information on current projects. We will be offering an excursion on small game species (and other small animals) and insights into new research on the population dynamics and climate effects in wild boar.

The event is supported by the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, the Province of Burgenland and many other sponsors.


Bio-Landgut Esterhazy, Seehof 1, 7082 Donnerskirche

The full programme can be viewed on the website of the organizer.

More info

(Web editor, 29 May 2018)

Long Night of Research: Citizen Science Marketplace at the Museum of Natural History

Join in Scientific Projects! Exciting research projects invited all those interested to participate in the multifaceted research landscape as Citizen Scientists. The Citizen Science Marketplace offered the opportunity to learn more about citizen science research projectsat 13 stations.

Teams "Ural owl" and "StadtWildTiere" from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna were  also on location.  Numerous visitors stopped by to learn about their work.

More info

(Web editor, 5 April 2018)

New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom

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” 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.

<link en infoservice presseinformation presse-releases-2018 new-treatment-strategies-for-chronic-kidney-disease-from-the-animal-kingdom>More info

(Web editor, 19 February 2018)

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

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" by Claudia Wascher, Kurt Kotrschal and Walter Arnold was published in Scientific Reports .

More info

(Web editor, 1.2.2018)

Mammals move less in human-dominated landscapes

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”  by Marlee A. Tucker et al. was published on 25 January 2018  in der journal Science.

More info

(Web editor, 26 January 2018)