The Sergei Foundation


B-more Dog


Pinups for Pitbulls



Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.


LD Logo Color

Archive for January 1st, 2009

Chapter 3: Will Knut get the boot?

Now fully grown and weighing 440 pounds, Knut bears (sorry) little resemblance to the button-eyed ball of white fluff that stole the hearts of Berlin, Germany and the world.

And, as if he were some TV anchorwoman past what management sees as her prime, zoo officials are saying he may have to go.

This couldn’t be more wrong (be it Knut, or our hypothetical anchorwoman). It’s a clear cut case of exploiting a cute little animal for all he’s worth, then unceremoniously dumping him when he gets fat and grey.

Knut has competition now. Nuremberg zoo officials introduced their own cub, Flocke in April. Another polar bear was introduced a week later, at Stuttgart’s Wilhelma zoo.

But Knut still manages to draw crowds at the Berlin Zoo, where he single-handedly increased visitors by 27 percent in 2007 and brought in $8.6 million in profits from products bearing his image, including stuffed animals, T-shirts, mugs and DVDs, according to an Associated Press report.

Nevertheless the zoo says it must do what is best for Knut — and, given their limited space, that might mean saying goodbye to him.

“The survival of the species is more important than any individual,” bear keeper Heiner Kloes said.

Knut currently lives in a small section of Berlin’s polar bear enclosure, home to four other polar bears, including Knut’s parents Tosca and Lars. That means there is no extra space for Knut.

Kloes said he wouldn’t consider keeping the young bear instead of his father, because by the time Knut is sexually mature the two other females will be too old to bear cubs.

Under a deal with the Neumuenster zoo, which owns Lars, it has the right to Knut. Zoo manager Peter Druewa has said Knut would have to move if the Berlin Zoo is not ready to invest in a new enclosure for him.

“If Berlin doesn’t want to build a new enclosure — or expand one of the existing ones — we’ll need to find a new place for him,” he said.

A website called Unibet is running odds on the zoo likeliest to get the bear, with Zoom Erlebniswelt in Germany the top contender, followed by Tierpark Neumuenster in Germany and Sweden’s Orsa Bjornpark. Also tipped but at longer odds are zoos in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Spain.

Knut still has has public sentiment on his side. Doris Webb, who has followed Knut since he was first presented to the world, has gathered more than 21,000 signatures in support of keeping him in Berlin.

“We want to show how important it is for Berlin, for the people here — and for Knut himself,” she said.

Chapter Two: Cute Knut’s loot

As the Berlin Zoo continued to make money off of Knut (pronounced kuh-NOOT), another zoo decided this year it deserved a piece of the action.

Tierpark Neumuenster animal park filed a lawsuit against the Berlin Zoo, saying that, in exchange for loaning Knut’s father, Lars, to the Berlin Zoo for breeding purposes, it deserved some of the profits the Berlin Zoo was raking in. Originally, the Berlin Zoo had promised the first surviving cub to them, the Neumuenster zoo claimed in the lawsuit.

While it wasn’t seeking Knut, the Neumuenster zoo argued it was entitled to some of the revenue. The lawsuit was later dropped and an out-of-court settlement reportedly reached.

By the time of this news report, Knut wasn’t so little anymore. He was up to 243 pounds — no longer exactly cuddly, but still drawing visitors.

A couple of months after it, Knut’s caretaker, Thomas Doerflein, who had bottle fed Knut as a cub and slept beside him at night, died, at 44, of a heart attack.

In effect, he was Knut’s daddy. Between his death, and the money-grubbing, Knut’s story was getting a little less heartwarming, but Knut himself remained fat, happy and secure in his home at the zoo.

Well, at least fat and happy.

Happy Knut Year? This story bears watching

We start with a happy song, for it was, mostly, a happy time — the Berlin Zoo had seen the birth of its first polar bear to survive infancy in 30 years.

Even though the cub was rejected by its mother, and had to be rescued with a fish net, and kept in an incubator for 44 days, and nursed through infancy by a loving human caretaker around the clock, Germany, and the world, thrilled to the sight of Knut. He was white and fluffy and cute. And little.

Some experts said it was a mistake to go to all the trouble — that zookeepers should let him die. But humans rallied in his support. A group of children protested at the zoo, holding up placards reading “Knut Must Live” and “We Love Knut.” The zoo was bombarded with emails, asking for the cub’s life to be spared.

The zoo took heed, and vowed to never harm Knut.

Born in late 2006, Knut was introduced to the world in March, 2007, at which time the Berlin Zoo — noting his public appeal — registered Knut as a trademark.

As Knut’s popularity soared, so did the zoo’s stock — and its attendance figures.

Other companies profited from Knut as well, by developing themed products — from ringtones to cuddly toys.

A toy company called Steiff produced several Knut-based plush toys, promising the money raised from the sale would be used to renovate the polar bear enclosure at the zoo. A candy company released “Cuddly Knut,” a raspberry-flavored gummy bear and pledged to donate a percentage of proceeds to the zoo as well.

There were happy songs written about Newt, like the one you’re hearing now, and Knut has also been the subject of books and movies. He appeared in March 2007 on the cover of the German Vanity Fair magazine, and lent his name to environmental causes, such as stopping global warming, which is threatening to send polar bears into extinction.

For cute little Knut, everything appeared headed to happily ever after.