December 5, 2007
Berlin Zoo Polar Bear Marks 1st Birthday
BERLIN - Celebrity polar bear Knut -- who won the hearts of millions around the globe as a roly-poly orphan cub -- celebrated his first birthday Wednesday with a cake made from 300 eggs and 20 pounds of marzipan.
The Berlin Zoo pulled out all the stops to fete its star attraction, who has gone from a fluffy white powderpuff of a cub to a full-grown polar bear with a cheeky curiosity and a penchant for muddying his coat by rolling in the dirt.
But Knut "” no longer a tiny cub, thanks partly to his penchant for croissants "” probably won't get a taste of his own birthday cake. He may have weighed less than 2 pounds at birth but now tips the scale at more than 240 pounds, and has been on a diet since July.
Abandoned at birth, along with a twin brother who only survived a couple of days, Knut first attracted attention when Berlin's media picked up the story of his main caregiver camping out at the zoo to give the cub his bottle every two hours.
The story angered animal rights activists, who tried to sue the zoo for cruelty to animals by preventing nature from taking its course when the cub was rejected "” even if it cost him his life.
By that time, Knut was a 3-month old white furball, with button eyes and his own fan club. He had been photographed dozens of times "” including for the cover of Vanity Fair "” and attracted thousands to the zoo.
Knut has generated more than $14 million for the zoo over the past year in with Knut toys, books and other trinkets, and drawing more than double the number of visitors.
Now that he is grown, the zoo does not have room to keep Knut permanently and are considering other offers from zoos in Europe, with an eye to finding him a mate, officials say.
Thomas Doerflein, who raised Knut by hand, cuddling him and playing with him in addition to feeding him from a bottle, told Germany's Bild newspaper on Wednesday that he hopes the bear will soon find a new home.
"A spacious enclosure. A female partner. At some point, Knut needs to leave me," Doerflein told the paper.
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