There's a party going down at Berlin Zoo on December 5 to celebrate the first birthday of the city's most feted resident, Knut the celebrity polar bear cub. Hand-reared since he was a newborn, he has become a friendly 100-kilo brute who still enjoys wrestling with his keepers.
Berlin Zoo, which has enjoyed record revenues this year from ticket and merchandise sales resulting from Knut's global fame, said it is planning a party but is keeping quiet about the nature of the celebration for now, and won't say whether Knut will be presented with a large fish cake or a basket of croissants, for which he has a penchant.
"We do have plans but we're not revealing them just yet," the zoo's bear expert, Heiner Klös, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We'll be making a statement about it in 14 days or so."
Knut is now so big that he doesn't fit on any scales but his vet Andreas Schüle estimates he weighs around 100 kilograms.
Even though he is rapidly developing into a full-sized predator and has a full set of sharp teeth, Knut remains entertainingly playful and still has a special bond with keeper Thomas Dörflein, whose round-the-clock-care helped the cub survive after he was rejected by his mother.
"Dörflein remains his favorite person. But he's getting increasingly independent," Schüle told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "He's no longer so interested in playing with rubber ducks but he does enjoy having a wrestle with his keepers in the mornings before the zoo opens."
Earlier in the year, Knut's caretakers had been unsure whether it would still be possible to have close contact with the bear at this stage, but he has remained friendly. "Scrapping with him is still possible," said Schüle.
Schüle said Knut, who has been pictured in Berlin newspapers enjoying rolling around in autumn leaves and getting dirty in the sand of his spacious enclosure, was making use of his new-found ability to stand on his two hind legs.
"He does that and sniffs the air to make out the various scents, especially when his keepers pass the enclosure," said Schüle.
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