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.

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Double trouble: Berlin’s panda twins get set for public debut

Two panda cubs born at Berlin Zoo last year charmed local media on Wednesday, a day before their debut in front of the general public.

Double trouble: Berlin's panda twins get set for public debut
The two panda cubs playing in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Five-month-old males Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan, whose names mean “long-awaited dream” and “dream come true”, were seen climbing over boulders as they explored their enclosure, watched by their mother Meng Meng and members of the press

The two cuddly cubs were the first pandas to be born in a German zoo, and have been nicknamed “Pit” and “Paule” by their carers.

The births were particularly rare as it is notoriously hard to breed pandas.

The zoo is expecting a surge in visitors when the pandas are put on public display for the first time on Thursday.

Zoo directors are planning to open more ticket desks to avoid long queues, and have arranged for security personnel to guard the panda enclosure.

Alongside their parents Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, the twins are the only pandas currently visible in Germany.

Meng Yuan and Meng Xiang being taken into their enclosure for the first time. Photo: DPA

READ ALSO: Boy oh boy! Two male pandas make debut at Berlin zoo

On loan from China, the panda couple had arrived in Berlin in June 2017 to great fanfare.

Famed for its “panda diplomacy”, China has dispatched its national treasure to only about a dozen countries as a symbol of close relations.

Berlin Zoo pays $15 million (13.4 million euros) for a 15-year contract to host the two adult pandas, with most of the money going towards a conservation and breeding research programme in China.

While the cubs were born in Berlin, they remain Chinese and must be returned to China within four years after they have been weaned.