Bad News Bear

updated 04/14/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/14/2008 01:00AM

Add to the list of troubled child stars ... Knut.

The once-cuddly fur ball who rocketed to fame a year ago—debuting in front of thousands of screaming fans at the Berlin Zoo and gracing the cover of Vanity Fair—is now a 330-lb. moody teen. Raised lovingly by zookeeper Thomas Dörflein after his mother rejected him, Knut is now missing surrogate dad Dörflein, who since November has been banned from entering Knut's enclosure for safety reasons. "He's a nice bear," says Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, director of the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, "but he's heavy and it was just too dangerous."

Of late, rumors have been flying. In a March 23 article in the German newspaper Bild, junior keeper Markus Röbke said Knut was "addicted to fame."

Nonsense, say zoo officials, who nevertheless concede the bear is having some growing pains. "It's true, he's crying for somebody in the morning sometimes," says curator Heiner Klös. The goal, says veterinarian Andre Schüle, is to get Knut independent enough that he can be transferred to another zoo, where he won't be reminded of his human pals. "We're very happy about his development," Schüle says.

No longer a hot ticket—polar bear cubs in Stuttgart and Nuremberg are drawing crowds—Knut spends his days swimming, tossing around pieces of wood and sleeping. By year's end, though, he may have a new companion. Says Klös: "We're trying to find him a female."

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