Zoos Squabble Over Polar Bear Profits

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

knut.jpg

Last year, Knut the polar bear cub became an international celebrity after animal rights activists said he should be allowed to die rather than raised by humans. The Berlin Zoo disagreed, and their adorable cub quickly became an environmental icon as well as the Zoo's most popular exhibit, bringing $8 million in revenues. Now the Neumuenster Zoo is trying to get a piece of the profits, saying that because it owns Knut's father, it kind of own Knut too. Neumuenster is looking into court action, as so far the Berlin Zoo has refused to give in.

As for Knut, he's suffering now that the intense attention he used to get is tapering off. When the Berlin Zoo was closed for a few days this winter, he howled for hours. He reportedly cries when there aren't enough people near his enclosure and pines for his former keeper, Thomas Dorflein, who hand-raised him, crying when he picks up Dorflein's scent. One of Knut's keepers told Der Spiegel that the bear "has something of an identity crisis. He doesn't know that he's a polar bear." The keeper, Markus Robke, says that Knut should be moved to someplace more secluded, away from people and away from those who raised him. "As long as he's with us, he will always regard Thomas Dorflein as his father."

Image courtesy Berlin Zoo

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