In Hard Economic Times, Berlin Zoo Turns to Selling Polar Bears

By Nina Bai | December 2, 2008 6:48 pm

knutLast year Knut the polar bear cub got a giant marzipan cake with a wooden candle for his birthday; this year he’ll get a quiche frozen in a block of ice. The global economic crisis is hitting even the celebrity polar bear sector, including Knut, whose fluffy features and adorable antics have earned the Berlin Zoo more than $7 million in endorsments. But now nearly two, Knut has lost his cuteness, and the Berlin Zoo has announced that it is ready to sell him.

“It’s time for him to go—the sooner he gets a new home the better. Anything else would be financially irresponsible,” said Heiner Kloes, the senior bear keeper. The zoo says it cannot afford to build a new compound large enough to accommodate the now-210 kilogram and 2.5-meter-tall bear. Neither can it afford to take on a mate for him. Several zoos around the world appear eager to welcome Knut, but the winning bid is likely to come from Gelsenkirchen Zoo, also in Germany, which has spacious facilities and Lara, a three-year-old female cub.

In his cuddlier days, Knut graced the cover of Vanity Fair, starred in films, inspired pop songs, and was honored on a postage stamp. (He’s even been accused of being a diva and has been called the Britney Spears of zoo animals.) But boy have times changed. Along with the stock market (and Britney), Knut’s stardom has taken a nosedive. Nowadays, he is often cranky and only rouses from his naps to eat. Knut was once an icon of the environmental movement, but some say his transfer to a new zoo may be funded by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant.

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Image: flickr / glyn nelson


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