Knut to draw a record number to Berlin Zoo

5th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 April 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Germany's most famous orphan is expected to attract a record number of visitors over Easter. Tens of thousands are expected to pour into Berlin Zoo to see the cute Polar bear cub who has become a worldwide celebrity since being raised by bottle after his mother abandoned him. Some 200,000 people streamed to the zoo last month to see tiny Knut amid a media hype and visits by politicians, including the European Union's Italian justice commissioner, Franco Frattini. The figure was

5 April 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Germany's most famous orphan is expected to attract a record number of visitors over Easter.

Tens of thousands are expected to pour into Berlin Zoo to see the cute Polar bear cub who has become a worldwide celebrity since being raised by bottle after his mother abandoned him.

Some 200,000 people streamed to the zoo last month to see tiny Knut amid a media hype and visits by politicians, including the European Union's Italian justice commissioner, Franco Frattini.

The figure was a record for March, but is likely to be better in April because of the holiday period. "We expect a record attendance over Easter," said Gerald Uhlich, the zoo's business director.

Knut seems blissfully unaware of all the attention during his two daily appearances where the public can see him playing in his bear pit, drinking milk and wrestling with his keeper, Thomas Doerflein.

The cub hit the 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 rescued Knut and his twin and decided to raise them by feeding them milk from a bottle. But only Knut pulled through after spending 44 days in an incubator.

The cub now weighs 12 kilos and the zoo is cashing in on his celebrity status by licensing his name and image.

A deal was concluded this week with toymaker Steiff to produce a range of Knut teddy bears in sitting, prone and standing positions that will sell for between 11.95 and 30 euros (15.90-40 dollars).

There are other Knut souvenirs, such as posters and postcards, while restaurants are offering "Knut menus" for children. A song has been composed about the white, fluffy animal and poems have been written about him.

Knut has also triggered a demand for the zoo's shares on the Berlin Stock Exchange, where they were traded at 4,400 euros on Wednesday morning, an increase of 83 per cent on the March 30 price.

Shares of the zoo's operator, Zoologischer Garter Berlin AG, were long considered only of interest to zoo enthusiasts and were rarely traded until recently. Only 4,000 shares are in circulation.

"I'm extremely pleased that people are showing an interest in our shares," said Uhlich. "But it's the shareholders that will benefit, not the zoo."

Knut makes his daily one-hour appearance in an enclosure normally used by brown bears. The zoo says it has no plans to move him back with the other Polar bears for fear they might trample on him.

Knut's mother was a former East German circus bear named Tosca who was sold to the zoo in 1999 by the Treuhand company charged with selling off East German assets.

Her former tamer, Ursula Boettcher, described her as friendly and quick to learn. She was seven months old when she joined the circus with her brother, Kenny.

Boettcher told the magazine Super Illu that she had been promised the bears would stay together after the circus folded in the aftermath of German unification in 1990.

But the Treuhand sold them separately "without saying a word to me. Everything practically disappeared overnight. I couldn't even say farewell to my bears," said the 79-year-old.

Boettcher believes this abrupt separation turned Tosca into what Germans dismissively call a "Rabbenmutter" (raven mother) and caused her to abandon her youngsters even though they weighed only a few hundred grams.

Knut is the first Polar bear to be raised in captivity at Berlin zoo in more than 30 years. Boettcher defended the decision to let his keepers bring him up by bottle-feeding him.

"Many animals are threatened with extinction, even Polar bears. One day the zoo will be the only place where you can see some species. That's why it's good to have people like Herr Doerflein to raise a Polar bear cub," she said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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