Polar Bear Cub Does Berlin Zoo Proud: Knut Learns to Stand On Hind Legs Without Falling Over
Berlin's most famous resident, Knut the polar bear cub, has finally taught himself to stand on his two hind legs after practicing hard for months. Polar bears stand up to look threatening, but Knut's keepers still aren't afraid of wrestling with him.
In June, when he was six months old, Knut still needed to support himself on rocks.
"He started standing up this month. It's a sign that he's getting increasing control of his body," the zoo's expert on bears, Heiner Klös, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
Knut, hand-reared after his mother rejected him at birth, has been trying to stand up ever since he could walk but always needed to support himself on a rock, or the leg of his faithful keeper Thomas Dörflein. Whenever he tried to stand unassisted he always ended up on his backside -- until this month, when he learned to balance himself by stretching out his front paws.
Being able to stand on hind legs is important in the wild because it can help polar bears look more threatening in confrontations with rivals. They often stand up and show their sharp teeth in an attempt to intimidate each other and avoid fights which can be very damaging to both parties given their size and power.
Not that Knut is intimidating his keepers yet. He weighs 95 kilos but still has direct contact with Dörflein and other keepers at the zoo, said Klös.
"Dörflein is a little more cautious these days but a younger keeper wrestles with him and they still play with a blanket," said Klös. "But his teeth are powerful and he's got big paws and we'll have to see how long that's still possible."
Klös said he couldn't predict whether Knut would still be in such close contact with his keepers by the time of his first birthday on December 5. "But we've definitely got a party planned for him," he added.
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