Berlin's star polar bear Knut ‘must go on diet’

31st July 2007, Comments 0 comments

31 July 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Knut, the cuddly polar that became an international star in March this year, has turned into a 60-kilogram heavyweight and needs to go on diet, Berlin Zoo vet Andreas Ochs said Tuesday.

31 July 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Knut, the cuddly polar that became an international star in March this year, has turned into a 60-kilogram heavyweight and needs to go on diet, Berlin Zoo vet Andreas Ochs said Tuesday.

Out go the treats, such as croissants and additional portions of fish, and in comes a strict regime aimed to trim Knut's increasingly rotund figure.

Knut's keepers do not in fact know his true weight, as the scales being used in his enclosure run only up to 50 kilograms, but they are sure that things have gone too far.

Ochs said keepers would be keeping a careful watch to ensure that Knut would not be allowed to take his accustomed extra portion from the feeding bucket.

The vet said being overweight was a common problem among predators kept in zoos, as they had much less space to roam than in the wild.

Polar bears in the wild put on weight during the summer to tide them over the lean winter months.

"But Knut doesn't need this, because he will be fed through the cold months," Ochs said.

The vet noted that other predators in the zoo, such as lions and tigers, had to endure a day or two a week of fasting. In the wild they would also not hunt down prey every day.

But this would not yet be the case with Knut "because he's still growing," Ochs said.

Adored by the general public for his winning ways and deeply appreciated by the zoo administrators for the additional money he has brought in, Knut has been dogged by controversy since his birth on December 5 last year.

Abandoned by his mother at birth along with his twin-brother, he survived 44 days in an incubator, only to be told by animal rights campaigners that he should not have been allowed to live.

In mid-July, a death threat was received by the zoo in the form of a handwritten letter.

And just a week ago, Wolfgang Apel, president of the German Society for the Protection of Animals, said the keepers had effectively turned him into a person.

"The socialization project has failed, Knut has become too much like a human," Apel said, adding that Knut should not be allowed to set a precedent.

At the beginning of July, the zoo called a halt to Knut's daily frolic with his favourite keeper, Thomas Doerflein, saying the bear was now too dangerous to play with.

By then more than a million paying visitors had watched the antics.

DPA

Subject: German news

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