TIERethik - Zeitschrift zur Mensch-Tier-Beziehung


Why is Meng Meng walking backwards? On the quality of zoo enclosures and their impact on the behavior of animals in the zoo
Anne Hölck

The international press reported on the young panda bear, Meng Meng, who was strangely moving backwards after her arrival at the Berlin Zoo in 2017. As early as the 1930s, Swiss zoologist Heini Hediger and zoologist Monika Holzapfel observed repetitive movements of zoo animals, which they considered pathological, though this is less widely known. The phenomenon of movement stereotypy is still a subject of research and a consideration regarding the design of zoo enclosures, as shown by the work of the biologist Ulrike Richter on the complexity and the reduction of stereotypy. The differences in spatial quality of the living environment of (zoo) bears and their effect on the animals’ behavior is shown by comparing the housing conditions of the Panda Garden of the Berlin Zoo with those of the Alternative Bear Park Worbis. The redesign of the bear enclosure in Berlin after a protest in 2017, which was transformed into a place for artistic interventions that incorporates a critical examination of zoo animal habitats within its concept, provides an outlook on change.

Keywords: stereotypy, zoo architecture, Alternative Bear Park Worbis, Bärenzwinger Berlin