Photo Gallery Cute Knut Makes Public Debut

He's Germany's most popular celebrity at the moment and over 100 journalists from around the world turned out at the Berlin Zoo for his first official appearance. Starting Saturday, anyone willing to wait in massive lines will have a crack at seeing the polar bear baby.
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Knut, Germany's baby polar bear, made his public debut to throngs of adoring fans and media at the Berlin Zoo on Friday to the chants of "We want Knut! We want Knut!"

Foto: AP
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Born on Dec. 5, Knut has become Berlin's most popular little celebrity. He was raised by the bottle by zookeeper Thomas Dörflein after his mother Tosca, a former circus performer, rejected him.

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Knut weighed just 810 grams at the time of his birth, and he had to gain at least 10 times that before he could meet his Berlin fans. The 15-week cub had to grow to a weight of at least 8 kilograms, but the zoo waited until he weighed 9 kilograms (about 19 pounds) and for a little sun before presenting him.

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Knut explored the outside bear enclosure on his first day "out."

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Knut seemed completely unfazed by all the attention Friday.

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Among Knut's first visitors on Friday was Sigmar Gabriel. The German Environment Minister, who is Knut's godfather, took a short walk with the bear cub. Gabriel warned on Friday that climate change is threatening the future of polar bears as a species. They live in the Arctic, and 10 percent of their habit has been destroyed. There are fewer seals to hunt and polar bears have been diminishing in weight.

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More than 500 journalists from all around the world got their first chance to meet little Knut on Friday. And Environment Minister Gabriel assured reporters that, unlike his cousins in the Arctic wild, Knut is in safe hands with surrogate father Dörflein.

Foto: DDP
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Reporters from all over the world had been waiting at Berlin Zoo since 7 o'clock in the morning to record Knut's first public appearance.

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Gosh, you're all here because of me? All the media attention was a bit much for the little bear cub.

Foto: DPA
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The Berlin Zoo told SPIEGEL ONLINE that it has received many requests by visitors who wanted to cuddle Knut. Perhaps Knut teddy bears are the answer to the problem.

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If only I could take Knut home with me: A Knut fan hugs a collection of Knut teddy bears.

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One Knut fan wears a t-shirt with a picture of her favorite bear. The punning caption reads "I find you just right to cuddle."

Foto: David Crossland
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"Knut belongs to all Berliners," Environment Minister Gabriel said on Friday. "We see him as the city's contribution to the worldwide discussion about climate change." No animal on the planet better demonstrates the consequences of climate change than the polar bear, he said.

Foto: AP
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Starting Saturday, Knut will make appearances for Berlin Zoo visitors between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. It is expected that Knut's popularity in Berlin, Germany, and abroad will create a fountain of money for the Berlin Zoo, which is expecting a surge of 200,000 to 300,000 visitors this year alone.

Foto: AP
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Knut's surrogate father, Dörflein, has raised Knut by hand. Knut's twin brother died after birth, but Knut has survived -- one of 35 successful attempts worldwide to rescue infant polar bears rejected by their mothers. During the 1950s, the zoo successfully raised a polar bear baby, and zoos in the German cities of Frankfurt and Münster have also had success stories.

Foto: AP
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In recent weeks, animal rights activists warned that, having been raised by Dörflein, Knut had become too human, and that he should have been put down rather than raised against the laws of nature.

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But on Friday, Knut seemed like a pretty happy little fellow, playing with sticks and frolicking in the water.

Foto: AP
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Hey! I thought I was the only polar bear cub in Berlin Zoo!

Foto: DPA
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Knut takes a nibble at a twig. There's a lot to learn about the world when you're a three-month-old polar bear.

Foto: DPA
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Knut likes his blankie.

Foto: AP
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Knut enjoys a roll around in his blankie.

Foto: AP
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Rarrrgh! Knut is slowly learning that he's a bear.

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The talented Knut can even stand on his hind legs.

Foto: AFP
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Knut and Thomas seem to enjoy a good rapport...

Foto: DPA
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... even if Knut can be a naughty little bear sometimes.

Foto: AP
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Every now and then, the two cuddled up together.

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Knut and his carer Thomas have a relationship like father and son.

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Knut gives Thomas a kiss.

Foto: DPA
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Knut gets an inverted tummy rub.

Foto: AP
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Boy! All this excitement takes it out of a fellow. Knut enjoys a well-earned rest.

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Knut and Thomas put their heads together.

Foto: AP
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Knut and Thomas are the best of chums.

Foto: DDP
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"They say that when he grows up he won't be as cute as he is now," one 9-year-old girl visiting the zoo told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But I will forever remember how cute he was today."

See also:
Photo Gallery: Knut Ventures Outdoors
Photo Gallery: Everybody Loves Knut
Photo Gallery: Cute Knut as a Baby

Foto: AP
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