After a hectic two weeks of bottle feedings and Kodak moments, the girl polar bear cub dubbed "Flocke," German for snowflake, by one of her keepers is set to get a real name on Friday.
Superstitious officials at Nuremburg Zoo were initially reluctant to give Snowflake a proper name out of fear she might not survive an effort to hand-raise her. But with a clean bill of health and the five-week old cub growing fast, Nuremberg city Mayor Ulrich Maly announced a global competition last weekend to come up with a name for the polar bear.
The Bavarian city has been flooded with responses. "Since we announced the competition we've received over 30,000 suggestions via e-mail and on postcards from all over the world," city hall spokesperson Siegfried Zelnhefer told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
Among the proposed names are Nibs, Snow White, Yuki Chan, Aichá, and Franka. International suggestions have come from from Brazil (Erica, Pink), Denmark (Nanoq), Canada (Snowball), Norway (Stella Polaris, Snow), Austria (Ragna, Solveig), India (Pappu), Poland (Clotilde) and Oman (Emily, Mia).
The five-person jury, comprised of the mayor and his deputy along with several members of Nuremberg's city council and the head zookeeper will meet on Friday to decide the name. "There's no real criteria, of course," Zelnhefer said. "It's not every day that you have a polar bear naming competition."
The announcement of Snowflake's official name is expected at a press conference at 3 p.m. EST on Friday.
Officials at Nuremburg Zoo separated Snowflake from her mother Vera on Jan. 9 when the adult began going "all Britney" on its then only four-week old offspring. Two cubs born to another polar bear at the zoo were eaten by their mother, "bones and all," earlier this month, and with the prospect of massive public outrage if Snowflake were to meet the same fate, her keepers intervened.
"After an internal discussion of the risks," the Nuremburg Zoo's Web site announced, "we decided to raise the animal by hand." Previously, however, the zoo sparked a public debate when it said it would not intervene against nature if the polar bears' mothers had trouble raising them.
Snowflake was taken indoors and has since then been fed, groomed, and warmed by human hands -- and electric lamps.
At just 2,570 grams (5.6 pounds), little Snowflake has a lot of growing to do. She drinks 140 milliliters of artificial milk every four hours. Her progress continues: "The baby bear's eyes have opened ... and her first tooth buds are starting to show," zoo veterinarian Bernhard Neurohr said on Wednesday. Another veterinarian, Petra Fritz, said the zoo had even received gifts because of its decision to save the cub, including an originally composed polar bear poem and pot holders with a polar bear pattern.
In a development reminiscent of the popularity of Knut, a polar bear at the Berlin Zoo rejected by his mother and hand reared in December 2006, the city has been inundated with interest in Snowflake. Nuremberg officials say a special Web site set up for the bear has already had 460,000 visitors. When the city released new photos of Snowflake sleeping on a rug, more than 120,000 online visitors flooded the site and caused its server to crash. Meanwhile, a 27-second video of Snowflake drinking milk from a bottle remains a top video on YouTube.de and has provided some competition for Knut, who has gone on to become a TV and film star.