Germany’s youngest celebrity, Knut the polar bear cub, made his much-anticipated public debut at Berlin Zoo on Friday and appeared unfazed by the media fracas surrounding the spritely little steps of his first excursion. The three-and-a-half-month old white cub padded gingerly around his new enclosure to the gasps and sighs of onlookers.
Fortified by a breakfast of porridge (perhaps oatmeal), the puppy-sized cub sniffed at the grass and rolled in the dust as he delighted the crowds. “I want to take him home,” said Daniel Wolff, five, whose mother had bought him a specially made “Knut” cuddly polar bear toy on sale on a stand outside the enclosure.
Knut stole the heart of Berliners after he was born in December, but was then rejected by his mother Tosca. A bearded zookeeper moved into the enclosure to look after him round the clock. But Knut’s fate grabbed global attention after an animal rights campaigner said hand-rearing polar bears was a violation of animal rights. German media interpreted his comments as a call for Knut to be put to sleep.
“We are not worried about Knut’s future,” Berlin Zoo vet Andre Schuele told reporters. “As a male he will grow big and strong. Polar bears are loners and he will be fine — it doesn’t matter that he has been hand-reared.”