Research Projects

Schönbrunn Zoo is the site of a wide spectrum of research endeavors. These range from animal keeping, cognition research and behavioral studies, to reproduction, physiology and nutrition, to veterinary medicine and conservation medicine. As the oldest zoo in the world, Schönbrunn is also a subject of historical research. Moreover, the more than two million visitors each year make the zoo interesting for the social sciences as well.

ZIMS – Zoological Information Management System

Beyond providing observational data, the zoo can also collect feathers, fur, hair, eggs, tissues and blood samples from its wild animal populations for research purposes – all the while adhering to the respective legal and animal hygiene regulations. The documented life histories of individual animals also serve as an important resource. These data are collated in the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS). ZIMS is operated by the non-profit organization Species360 and generates information from almost 1200 member institutions. Schönbrunn Zoo has been regularly compiling data from about 700 animal species.

Research project: crows at the zoo

Beyond enjoying the zoo animals, visitors can also observe numerous wild crows at Schönbrunn. A citizen science project of the University of Vienna in cooperation with the Konrad Lorenz Research Center and the zoo is focused on the behavior of these black-plumed zoo guests. The special feature: all zoo visitors are invited to collect research data on their own at the zoo. More information

Research project: Foot-flagging frogs

Beyond the quacking typical for frogs, foot-flagging frogs also communicate through visual signals. Their conspicuous leg waving is considered to be an intraspecific communication signal. Schönbrunn Zoo has been operating a breeding and research project with two species of foot-flagging frogs since 2008. This long-term project is devoted to studying the physiology and evolution of these signals along with the multimodal communication of these frogs. More information

Research project: Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism refers to our tendency to use human traits in describing and interpreting the behavior of animals. At the zoo, researchers from the University of Vienna use questionnaires to determine how our visitors perceive the zoo animals, above all primates. More information

Research project: Ravens

The Schönbrunn raven pair Munia und Rufus stem from Haidlhof – a research station of the University of Vienna. Experiments are being conducted with the raven colony there to study the intelligence of these birds. The focus is on their social learning and communication. This scientific research is also being extended to the individuals at the zoo. More information

Research project: Indian frogs and toads

Der Indus Valley bullfrog and the Asian common toad exhibit a spectacular mating behavior: the males change color from an inconspicuous brown to bright yellow during the mating period. Nonetheless, little is known about the biology of these animals. The zoo is studying their behavioral biology in cooperation with a PhD student from the University of Vienna. More information

Research project: Amphibian fungus disease

The fungal disease chytridiomycosis poses a threat to amphibians. In Europe it is caused by two fungi, one of which – Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, abbreviated Bsal – was only recently discovered. Wherever it crops up, the salamander populations rapidly decline to low numbers. The zoo is studying the potential infection status of Austrian salamanders and newts in cooperation with many additional institutions. More information

Research project: Yawning

The animals at the zoo were part of the world’s largest yawning study, conducted in a cooperative effort involving researchers from Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, the USA and The Netherlands. One of the leading authors was the biologist Margarita Hartlieb, who conducted the study in the framework of her Master thesis at the University of Vienna. More information

Research project: Feed box

The student Jonas Homburg posed tricky brain teasers to the zoo animals in the framework of his Master thesis. He placed a feed box with different puzzle doors into the enclosures of Oriental small-clawed otters, prairie dogs and European ground squirrels and observed how they solved the tasks. This also proved to be quite fun for the visitors to watch. More information

Research project: Giant jellyfish

At one time their very existence was doubted, today they are being intensively studied. The Giant jellyfish, with its nearly 60 cm umbrella diameter, is of great interest to researchers. The marine biologist Karen Kienberger provided polyps of this species to Schönbrunn Zoo, where they successfully completed their life cycle – a world’s first! Moreover, all the developmental stages were photographed and additional important data collected, all of which were provided to Karen Kienberger to advance her research. More information

Research project: Parasite monitoring

The veterinarian and parasitologist Dr. David Ebmer is studying the fascinating parasite fauna of our zoo animals at Schönbrunn Zoo in close collaboration with the zoological curators and the animal caretaker team. Regular check-ups yield valuable data that enable us to continuously improve our hygiene concepts. More information

Research project: Elephant trunk

The biologist Lena Kaufmann spent several weeks studying the behavior of our African elephants. Her observations and feeding experiments were designed to determine how often and in what manner the elephants touch each other and what role their nimble trunks play in this process. More information

Research project: Giant tortoises

Giant tortoises are well known for their slow movements and longevity. The Hebrew University initiated an experimental study to examine the cognitive abilities of these fascinating reptiles. In the framework of this study, the Schönbrunn Giant tortoises Schurli, Menschik and Mädi were trained to associate a visual signal with food. Many years later, the animals were still able to repeat the assigned tasks. More information

Research project: Elephant communication

The student Christopher Gorofsky had a job that was the envy of many: for three months he spent every day standing in the elephant enclosure and used specially designed equipment to eavesdrop on the female calf Kibali and her mother Numbi. This provided key data for his Master thesis titled “Early mother-calf communication in African elephants at the zoo”. More information

Research project: Panda twins

Die rearing of the panda twins Fu Feng und Fu Ban was a world sensation. Yang Yang was the first panda female in captivity to raise twins without human support. This research at the zoo provided scientific confirmation that Yang Yang is a “super mom”. A nesting box camera helped determine how Yang Yang was able to solve the time-consuming problem of raising twins. More information