Let’s keep our paws off Knut’s balls

Castrate Knut? Overzealous animal rights activists need to keep their paws off Berlin’s beloved polar bear, argues Bernd Matthies from Der Tagesspiegel.

Let’s keep our paws off Knut’s balls
Photo: DPA

Knut is doing just fine, thank you. Berlin’s leading furry citizen is all grown-up. No longer an adorable celebrity fuzzball, Knut’s become a man – so to speak. He’s even got a live-in girlfriend at his small yet centrally located bear pad in the German capital. The only thing missing for an ursine happily-ever-after to this story is a couple of cute cubs of his own.

That is, if it weren’t for the killjoys at Peta. This week the animal rights group claimed that Knut and his lady Giovanna shared the same grandfather – which could lead to detrimental inbreeding should the two decide to start a family. The solution? Castrate Knut!

Perhaps not. First of all, the demand to snip Berlin’s favourite furry son is coming from an organisation known for its hunger for publicity. Peta would sell its own grandmother to create a few choice headlines – if you known what I mean.

Besides, what kind of signal does it send if Berlin neutered a city institution known around the globe? And let’s not mention the whole panda baby bust at the Berlin Zoo, shall we? If anything, the still extremely broke German capital could use another baby polar bear or two to keep the tourists happy.

So let’s keep our paws off Knut’s balls.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

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After Knut, meet Fritz, the polar bear melting German hearts

Move over Knut, there's a new über-cute polar bear in town. Meet Fritz, the three-month-old ball of fluff that a Berlin zoo is hoping will capture hearts around the world.

After Knut, meet Fritz, the polar bear melting German hearts
Fritz appears before the camera in January. Photo: DPA

Knut the polar bear shot to international stardom after he was abandoned by his mother and hand-reared in Berlin Zoo.

But the cuddly icon died suddenly of a suspected brain tumour in 2011 at the age of four, sparking grief amongst his army of fans.

East Berlin's rival Tierpark zoo announced Tuesday that its new cub – born on November 3rd – has been named Fritz after it emerged as top choice in a local radio competition among 10,000 suggestions from all over the globe.

Fritz is the shortened form of Friedrich, the equivalent in German of “Fred” or “Freddy”.

“I am very happy with the choice of the name – it's a short and cute name that foreign visitors will remember easily,” said the zoo's director Andreas Knieriem.

To the great relief of his keepers, Fritz has made it through the crucial first three months when a captive cub's chances of survival hang in the balance.

Tierpark is now hoping Fritz can provide a new mascot for a city which counts a bear as its heraldic symbol – a role that has been vacant since Knut's untimely demise.

A bronze statue of Knut now stands in the west Berlin Zoo, which earned millions of euros from visitors and merchandise.

At the height of his fame, Knut appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and on German postage stamps.

Tierpark said visitors would not be able to catch a glimpse of Fritz and his parents, Tonja and Woldja, until the spring.

Its Arctic habitat threatened by global warming, the polar bear is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A European Union breeding plan is attempting to boost numbers of the bear, whose population in the wild stands at around 26,000, according to the IUCN.