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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.

Comments

Comment from bluhawkk
Time January 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

I have a low opinion of zoos. Yes indeed they do exploit animals based on cuteness and appeal.

Ever wonder what happens to excess, aging or infirmed animals? No, they don’t retire with Social Security and Medicare benefits.

They are considered ‘surplus’ and may be auctioned off to various industries including ranches that engaged in ‘canned hunts’ of exotics.
http://www.captiveanimals.org/zoos/zfact1.htm

http://www.pawsweb.org/surplus.pdf

http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/stop_canned_hunts/canned_hunts_unfair_at_any_price/

It is a dirty business.

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