Not so cuddly Knut may leave Berlin zoo

Fri Dec 5, 2008 12:51pm EST
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By Anna Brooke

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Knut the polar bear celebrated his second and perhaps final birthday in Berlin on Friday with hundreds of well-wishers who sang "happy birthday."

The cuddly orphan cub who once captivated animal lovers around the world has grown into a strapping 200 kg (441 lb) adolescent predator with a need for more space and a mate.

He devoured a birthday sack of vegetables, fruit, fish and his favorite treat -- croissants -- while television cameras and photographs recorded the occasion along with several hundred fans from around the world.

But keepers say it is time for Knut, who was rejected by his mother at birth and hand-reared by zookeeper Thomas Doerflein, to mate and there is a dispute about where he should settle down. There are no potential partners around his age in Berlin.

The Neumuenster zoo has staked a claim on Knut, or at least a slice of the 5 million euros he has generated for the Berlin Zoo since he became an international celebrity because Knut's father, Lars, was loaned to Berlin from the Neumuenster zoo.

Another German zoo in Gelsenkirchen also wants Knut and has a polar bear named Lara with whom Knut could mate.

But the director of Berlin's zoo, Bernhard Blaskiewitz, told B.Z. daily that he plans to fight to keep Knut in Berlin.

"I expect that Knut will stay in Berlin," he said.   Continued...

<p>Happy birthday to Knut Knut, Berlin Zoo's celebrity polar bear, celebrates his second birthday, amid German media reports that he may soon have to move zoos. SENT</p>