The Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) presented its research again this year at the Long Science Night in Dresden. Being the youngest institute of the HZDR, the participation in the event in the Saxon state capital was a premiere for CASUS. The Earth System Research department brought along an app that visualizes movement patterns of various animals in their habitats. Jaguar and king cobra caught the interest of the visitors of the public science event the most.

Where do wild animals live? The question sounds easy to answer, but often it is not. The habitat and action area shift throughout the year and also due to interactions with other animals and humans. In addition, human-made changes in the environment affect the habitat and action space. But answers to this question are urgently needed to preserve valuable ecosystems and thus effectively protect species. That is why the movements of many animal species are recorded and evaluated. At CASUS, data from various animal species are being analyzed. For the Science Night, a special app was prepared with data sets from African buffaloes (Africa), king cobras (Asia), brown pelicans, jaguars, maned wolves and South American tapirs (all South America).

CASUS group leader Prof. Justin Calabrese and Dr. Inês Simoes Silva, postdoc in the Calabrese group, used the web app’s digital map to show various movement data and answered questions from the participants. People often asked what determines the range of motion of animals. In addition to species-specific factors such as speed and type of movement, food demanded, reproductive or hibernation behavior, the availability and accessibility of potential habitats play a crucial role. From the scientists’ point of view, fragmentation by settlements and roads is a major problem. Movement ecologists like Simoes Silva want to find out if and how essential infrastructure projects can be implemented so that their negative impact on ecosystems is minimized. In the future, settlements and infrastructures by and for humans can be designed so that important wildlife movement zones remain untouched. In addition, habitat fragmentation can be counteracted by wildlife bridges and other connections along highways and train routes. This can preserve or restore important migration routes or movement corridors.

Besides the king cobra, the jaguar was the guests’ favorite. Using two data sets from the app, those of the individuals named Zorro and Isabella, the differences in the movement behavior of males and females became clear: Zorro approached settlements and partially roamed through them. Isabella, on the other hand, always kept away. Other data corroborate this observation: compared to female jaguars male animals show a behavior that is judged as bolder and riskier when taking into account the dangers they encounter in human settlements.