Polar-bear cub Flocke on public view at German zoo
Flocke, a 4-month-old polar-bear cub, emerged from post-natal seclusion and took a flying leap into its pond at Nuremberg Zoo in an event telecast live throughout Germany.
8th April 2008
Nuremberg - Television teams from all-news channel CNN and Japan's Fuji TV were among the media scrum waiting to catch the moment.
The zoo expects up to 25,000 visitors a day this summer to see the fluffy white cub's antics. Its name means Snowflake in German.
For the first 20 minutes after emerging from its den, Flocke frolicked in the grass and on paths close to the keepers who have hand reared the cub since it was rescued from its agitated mother on January 8.
The hyperactive bear, which has little swimming experience, wet it paws at first, then was persuaded to actually jump in, to the delight of viewers who have been waiting for days to see Germany's most adorable bear of 2008.
The Flocke story is a sequel to the media sensation over Knut, last summer's male polar-bear cub in Berlin, which has since grown into a less attractive moody adolescent. Germans are wondering if the two hand-reared bears could one day mate as a dream couple.
The chief executive of Nuremberg Zoo, Dag Encke, defended the way the media had elevated the animal to a human level, saying this was useful to encourage public concern about the survival of all animals.
People did not care about spiders, but they did care about bears.
"Flocke is not a polar bear any more, nor a person, but a reflection of human urges," he told reporters waiting to see Flocke. "Polar bears rouse emotions, and via these emotions we can make people conscious" of ecology.
The 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild were endangered by climate change, said Encke, charging that global warming was "literally pulling away the ground on which polar bears stand" with Arctic ice melting.
He said sending more bears to the Arctic would not help. The answer was to fight global warming.
Tuesday's debut by 20-kilogram Flocke was reserved for 360 accredited journalists and 50 VIP guests of the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. The public will not be admitted to see the cub till Wednesday.
An animal-rights group wearing white bear costumes picketed the zoo Tuesday, contrasting the personification of the bear with people's disinterest in the extinction of other animals caused by the human takeover of their habitats.
"Flocke is being used as a screen to project frustrated human emotions onto," they said in a news release.
The Nuremberg Zoo has doubled its car parks and added rest-rooms and ticket-booths to cope with the expected rush this summer, and will usher visitors through a grandstand next to Flocke's watery pen, with viewing limited to 15 minutes for each contingent of 500 to 600.
While asleep, Flocke can be seen on big screens, and the zoo has set up a website with detailed news on the cub's development.
Keepers initially wanted Flocke to be raised by its own kind, but the mother bear, Vera, became agitated on January 8 as media attention to the newborn grew and camera crews were filming the den.
When the mother kept roughly dropping Flocke and picking it up again by the nape of its neck, keepers guessed the mother was about to gobble up the cub and seized it.