Berlin's star bear Knut celebrates first birthday

5th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

5th December 2007 Hundreds of visitors looked on as Knut lolled about and posed for the cameras positioned around his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo.

5th December 2007
 
Hundreds of visitors looked on as Knut lolled about and posed for the cameras positioned around his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo.

"The bear has a healthy portion of self-confidence," said zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. "Polar bears can live to be 40 years of age. We hope Knut will live that long."

Knut needed just 30 minutes to finish off his cake of carrots, potatoes, ice-cream and leaf chard that was presented to him by his keeper, Thomas Doerflein.

But he kept the wooden candle placed on top of the cake and used it as a toy after the party finished. Visitors had their own cake: a 4.5-square-metre slab in which Knut and his mother Tosca were drawn in marzipan.

Dorflein raised Knut by bottle after the cub and his twin brother were rejected by their mother when they were just days old.

Knut weighed a tiny 810 grams at birth, and there were real fears he would die, as his brother did after just four days.

But through Doerflein's care, he thrived. By late July, when he weighed in at 60 kilograms, Knut had to go on diet. His current weight is put at 110 kilograms.

Knut is the biggest attraction the zoo's 163-year history. More than 2.5 million people have visited his enclosure, and millions more around the world have seen him on film or television.

By the zoo's own estimates he has generated up to 10 million euros (15 million dollars) in income through entrance fees and merchandising.

It has not been all plain sailing. Conservationists and animal rights purists said Knut should have been allowed to die, rather than be brought up as a "half-human."

A death threat in April brought additional police protection. The same month he suffered a bout of toothache that caused a brief break in his public engagements.

The debate about his future has begun. The zoo in the German city of Neumuenster has a claim, as that is where Knut's father Lars hails from.

The Hanover and Gelsenkirchen zoos have also indicated an interest, with Gelsenkirchen sending a "love letter" from its female polar bear.

Berlin Zoo is keeping its options open. No decision is to be taken until the middle of next year at the earliest.

DPA

Subject: German news, Knut, polar bear

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