Knut The Polar Bear
No longer cute, no longer washing powder-white, Knut the celebrity bear has become the latest victim of the credit crunch.
Knut, two years old on Friday, is almost ready to mate – but Berlin Zoo is unable to raise the cash for a new polar bear compound that would give him space to romp around and work off some of his raging hormones. So the zoo, which has made millions out of marketing the once-fluffy bear, is looking for another home.
Zoos from across Europe are eager to take on Knut – he is an international star, the only bear to make the cover of Vanity Fair – to boost their ticket revenues. Thousands of Berliners, including intellectuals such as the architect Daniel Libeskind, have started lobbying to keep Knut in the German capital. But when a bear’s got to go, he’s got to go.
“Berlin is set to lose one of its best ambassadors,” said Christian Taenzler, of the tourism authority, “and to the regret of international visitors it is about to lose one of its true icons.”
It has been a bad autumn for Knut. Thomas Doerflein, the keeper who nursed and nannied him during his first year, died suddenly in September. And as the bear grows larger – 210kg (33st) and more than 2.5m (8ft 2in) tall when he stands on his back paws – so his crowd of daily admirers shrinks. His star is on the wane and he has grown more grumpy, less inclined to perform. Animal rights campaigners once claimed that he was becoming addicted to applause and the attentions of his keeper.
Now the clapping is sparse, the keeper is dead and Knut has reverted to normal ursine behaviour, stirring from his morning nap and afternoon siesta only at feeding time. Last year he was given an elaborate birthday cake with a wooden candle, which he promptly ripped apart. This year – a sign of the times – he is to be given a quiche buried in a block of ice.