German court battle starts over Knut the polar bear

20th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Animal Park Neumuenster in northern Germany is suing Berlin Zoo for a share of the millions of euros (dollars) generated by Knut after he shot to fame in 2007 and began drawing huge crowds and inspiring lucrative merchandise.

Berlin -- Two German zoos took a battle to court Tuesday over revenues generated from a cuddly polar bear cub named Knut who became a global superstar and serious money-spinner after being rejected by his mother.

The Animal Park Neumuenster in northern Germany is suing Berlin Zoo for a share of the millions of euros (dollars) generated by Knut after he shot to fame in 2007 and began drawing huge crowds and inspiring lucrative merchandise.

The Neumuenster zoo is home to Knut's father Lars and claims legal ownership of the star bear, now a strapping adult.

A spokeswoman for the Berlin regional court said the first stage of the lawsuit demands the Berlin Zoo reveal just how much it has earned from Knut and that the parties try to reach a settlement on their own.

"The second stage could be a demand for payment," she told AFP.

The Berlin Zoo has offered to buy Knut and Lars outright for 350,000 euros -- "the going rate for polar bears," the spokeswoman said. But Neumuenster is asking for 500,000 euros.

The parties have two months to reach a settlement on the revenues. If they fail, the court will take on the case and deliver a verdict by September 1.

Knut was cast out as a cub by his mother, sparking an outpouring of public sympathy that even won him a spot on the cover of glossy US magazine Vanity Fair.

But the extra attention appears to have been excessive, with animal rights groups saying that Knut now displays abnormal behaviour, including imitating zoo visitors taking photos.

Thomas Doerflein, Knut's 44-year-old keeper who reared him by hand and also became something of a cult star, died of a heart attack in September.

AFP/Expatica

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