The five-week-old polar bear cub female now being hand-reared in Nuremberg Zoo is fast turning into a celebrity rivalling Knut. Well-wishers from around the world have been sending in letters and gifts such as hand-knitted bibs, and more than 15,000 possible names have been e-mailed to the zoo since it started calling for suggestions last Friday.
Proposals range from Käthe, Paula, Franka and Lina to Snow-White, Aicha and Yuki Chan. In the meantime, her keepers have been calling her Flocke, the German word for "snowflake."
Her weight has increased to 2.4 kilos from 1.7 kilos last week when the zoo decided to take her away from her restless mother Vera after another polar bear in the zoo had eaten her own two cubs. "We're very, very pleased," the zoo's director Dag Encke told reporters. "Every day we're becoming more hopeful that we will be able to rear her successfully."
Snowflake's survival chances are still only seen as 50:50 because polar bear cubs are susceptible to infections. Her four keepers wear surgical masks and disposable rubber gloves. Two large stuffed toys keep the baby polar bear company in her box.
She is being bottle-fed 140 milliliters of artificial milk every four hours and is expected to open her eyes in the next few days. Her keepers are rubbing her tummy to help her digest her food and massaging her gums where the first teeth are about to poke out.
Berlin Zoo, which hand-reared Knut from a newborn cub to the healthy, 120 kilogram (264 pound) bruiser he is today, is helping out by sending a special mixture with which it fed Knut -- maize syrup mixed up with puppy milk.
Snowflake is proving so popular that Nuremberg Zoo's Internet server collapsed last Friday when 120,000 people tried to access the Web site to see the latest photos of the white ball of fur sleeping on a rug.
Meanwhile back in Berlin, there are emerging signs of civic rivalry with Nuremberg over who has the best cub.
Berlin daily Tagesspiegel published an editorial listing a number of reasons why Snowflake will never be as popular as Knut. "Isn't the original always better than the copy? Who needs pitiful Elvis and Marilyn impersonators, Abba and Queen Musicals?" wrote Tagesspiegel.
"You have to want a star. Knut was prepared for an international career from the word go. And the supporting roles like Knut's sidekick (zookeeper Thomas Dörflein) were excellently cast. In Nuremberg they complained about 'stupid Knutomania' before unceremoniously pushing the polar bear girl into the limelight by deciding to hand-rear her."
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