End of an Era Nearing Knut Steadily Getting Less Cute

It's a tragic fact of life. Celebrity polar bear cub Knut, now almost five months old, is gradually mutating from a fluffy porridge-lapping cub into a heavy bruiser with a penchant for meat off the bone. But the visitors are still flocking to see him.

Knut's days of extreme cuteness are numbered now that he has acquired a markedly longer snout and weighs a chubby 17 kilograms (37 pounds), twice as much as when he first appeared before an adoring public five weeks ago.

"His teeth are sharper and he's stronger, he still gets porridge but we now feed him beef on the bone occasionally," the zoo's bear expert Heiner Klös told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "He's calmed down a bit, he doesn't potter around as much as he used to and he's happy to sit on his own more often. But he still wanders back to his keeper to tank up on security."

Knut's faithful handler Thomas Dörflein has taken to wearing long-sleeved shirts or pullovers and gloves to protect himself when he handles Knut. But the polar bear cub immediately obeys when Dörflein has had enough and tells him to stop biting him with the stern command "Aus!"

Klös said it's impossible to predict when Knut will be able to sleep on his own without a keeper by his side, or when he will be too dangerous to handle closely. "At the moment handling him is no problem and we don't have a timetable in that regard."

Even though he's getting bigger every day, the crowds are still pouring in to see him. More than 25,000 people visited the zoo at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the extensive range of Knut merchandise was increased last week with the launch of a porcelain Knut by venerable Berlin-based china manufacturer Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur Berlin.


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