German celebrity polar bear Knut has swiped 10 fish out of the moat around his enclosure at Berlin Zoo and wolfed them down in an impressive display of his predatory skills.
Berlin Zoo had put the carp into his moat to help keep the water clean by eating algae. But the 140-kilo (309-pound) bear shocked onlookers by catching the chubby fish and playing with his live prey until they stopped flapping. Then he gobbled them up.
"He ate them all in just a day and a half," the zoo's bear expert Heiner Klös told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Whatever people may say, he's a good hunter, and it's all part of being a polar bear. This shows he's totally fit. We won't be placing any more fish in his moat, though."
Germany's top-selling daily Bild reported that onlookers were disgusted by the spectacle. The newspaper ran the headline "Knut Embroiled in Carp Scandal" and quoted animal welfare campaigners as criticizing the zoo for letting Knut eat live vertebrates in breach of German animal protection regulations.
Klös rejected the argument Monday. "It's a strange criticism, given how lobsters are kept in restaurant aquariums before being killed for customers," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
The hand-reared bear's cute image was already dented recently when he leapt out of the water and banged his head against a glass wall in an apparent attempt to get at a toddler watching him.
Yet visitors have been feeling sorry for the hand-reared bear, who has been pining for human contact ever since the zoo's management banned keepers from going near him in February.
His latest antics have assured him of continuing media coverage even as his rival for Germany's affections, female polar bear cub Snowflake, prepares to make her first public appearance in Nuremberg Zoo on Wednesday. Nuremberg Zoo is expecting up to 25,000 visitors a day to see the four-month-old cub, who was rescued in January from her distraught mother who kept dropping her on the rocky floor.
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