Polar Bear Profits
Knut Earned Berlin Zoo 5 Million Last Year
Cute Knut made a profit of about 5 million ($7.4 million) for Berlin Zoo last year and helped attract an extra 500,000 visitors. No wonder the owner of Knut's father Lars, a northern German zoo, wants a piece of the action.
Polar bear superstar Knut earned a profit of around €5 million for Berlin Zoo last year by attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and spawning a range of merchandise, according to zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz.
Most of the profit came from higher ticket sales as visitor numbers surged by 500,000 in 2007, with the shaggy cub accounting for around two thirds of that increase, Blaszkiewitz said in an interview with Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.
License income from the sale of merchandise such as Knut-shaped marshmallows, cuddly toys, games, costume jewellery and even a porcelain figurine amounted to €750,000.
Blaszkiewitz declined to comment on a demand from the owner of Knut's father Lars, Neumünster zoo in northern Germany,
for a share of the profits. Berlin Zoo has refused to pay out and the two zoos are in contact through their lawyers, media reports say.
Knut wasn't just a money spinner, he also generated huge public interest in polar bears and the threat posed by global warming to their Arctic habitat, said Blaszkiewitz.
The only problem was that Knut absorbed the interest of the media and many of the zoo visitors. Who for example has heard of Paul the Pygmy Hippopotamus, born in Berlin Zoo last year? His birth went largely unnoticed as everyone flocked to see Knut. "People went to see Knut and only paid quick visits to the other animals," said Blaskiewicz.
He said Knut could only live in his current enclosure for another year or so. "In a year Knut will be able to jump out of it with one leap -- nobody wants that," said Blaskiewicz. But Knut may have moved on to another zoo by then.
As Knut increases in size, visitor numbers have been dwindling even though the chubby bear remains as entertainingly playful as ever, recently performing what appeared to be uncannily human stretching exercises.
Flocke in Nuremberg Zoo is putting on weight fast and should be presented to the public for the first time after Easter.