Berlin's celebrity bear takes centre stage

26th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

26 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Italian European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini's trip to the Berlin Zoo Sunday to visit its star attraction, a baby polar bear, was a reminder that there was another show in town other than the celebrations marking the European Union's 50th anniversary. King Knut (Canute), as the German media have dubbed the bear since the zoo decided to raise him after he was rejected by his mother, has rapidly taken on international celebrity status. Indeed, while EU leaders were hold

26 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Italian European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini's trip to the Berlin Zoo Sunday to visit its star attraction, a baby polar bear, was a reminder that there was another show in town other than the celebrations marking the European Union's 50th anniversary.

King Knut (Canute), as the German media have dubbed the bear since the zoo decided to raise him after he was rejected by his mother, has rapidly taken on international celebrity status.

Indeed, while EU leaders were holding a formal ceremony to mark the signing of the so-called Berlin Declaration, large queues were forming at the Berlin Zoo for a viewing of Knut, who made his public debut on Friday.

More than 20,000 people queued to see the small polar bear. "It is like a big festival," zoo spokesman Heiner Kloes said.

On Sunday the Berlin Zoo corrected a statement made earlier in the day that Prime Minister Romano Prodi had visited Knut. In fact it had been Frattini.

Frattini's visit was another reflection of the worldwide interest that has been generated in Knut and his new fan base, who tune into a webcam that documents his daily life.

The fluffy white Knut, meanwhile, rolled on the grass and bit into a red cloth held in front of him by his keeper, Thomas Doerflein, in the manner of a bullfighter.

It was the first time that the general public had a chance to see Kunt in the flesh. The cub will be on show each day for two hours between 11 am and 1 pm.

"I've never seen people as happy as this," said zoo veterinary surgeon Andre Schuele, as the crowds pressed towards the bear's enclosure in bright, sunny weather.

Knut made media headlines after animal-rights campaigners claimed he should be put down because he was becoming too dependent on humans since being left to die by his mother on December 5 last year.

Keepers rescue Knut and his twin and decided to raise the cubs themselves by feeding them milk from a bottle. But only Knut pulled through after spending 44 days in an incubator.

Over the past three-and-a-half months he has grown to a normal weight of 9 kilos and behaves like any other cub, although his fixation on humans makes him seek constant contact with his keeper.

Officials said they would keep him apart from the zoo's other Polar bears because of the risk he would be trampled on. Eventually Knut is expected to be transferred to another zoo.

A spokesman for the Zoological Gardens said other zoos have already made enquiries about using him for breeding purposes when he grows up. Knut is the first Polar bear to be raised in captivity at Berlin zoo in more than 30 years.

DPA

Subject: German news

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