Ever since Knut, the über-famous baby polar bear, frolicked into the hearts of Berliners and others around the world last year, the German capital has been looking for a mini-mammal to take his place. On Tuesday, the most recent contestant threw his hat into the ring. His name is Antares, and he is a tiny, six-week-old Siberian tiger. And, he is mega-cute.
The fluffy little male was carried out in a basket before he scampered out to the delight of gathered zoo-goers and photographers at his home at Berlin's Tierpark Friedrichsfelde. Still, it was not the first time Antares was on stage. Even though he has spent most of his life out of the public eye, his mom would occasionally carry him out into the enclosure, giving lucky zoo visitors a sneak preview.
"The family lives in a sort of three-room home," handler Petra Schröder told news agency DDP, speaking of Antares and his parents. The baby tiger hid out in a room not visible to zoogoers, but his mother would "pick him up and take him outside for people to see him."
Antares, named after a star in the Milky Way, is the 121st Siberian tiger to be born at the zoo, located in eastern Berlin -- across the city from where Knut resides. Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are the largest of the six tiger sub-species. Aggressive poaching and logging in their natural habitat have left fewer than 400 of them in the wild, mostly in forests in Russia's far east. The animal is listed as "critically endangered."
But life in captivity won't be all frolicking in baskets for young Antares. In order to remain safe in his moated enclosure, he must learn how to swim. Handlers are waiting until he can be separated long enough from his parents to give the cub his first swimming lesson in a basin.
Sound like another photo op? Zookeepers aren't so sure. "He won't be another Knut," said handler Christian Kern. "We have a new predator baby almost every year."
Antares' appearance comes on the heels of another, rarer example of feline reproduction in Germany. At the very end of June, seven white lion babies were born in the Stukenbrock Safari Park in western Germany -- all on the very same day.