Report: Zoo To Give Polar Bear Knut the Boot

12/06/2008 at 11:20 AM EST

Report: Zoo To Give Polar Bear Knut the Boot
Knut, grown up and as a cub in 2007
Michael Kappeler/Colourpress/JPI; Markus Schreiber/AP
Knut, the world’s most famous polar bear, turned two last Friday, but this year there was no celebration – and the animal-kingdom superstar might need to start looking for new digs.

According to reports in the German press, Berlin’s zoo is looking to sell the famous bear to another facility, possibly in Sweden, in 2009.

Now weighing in at almost 450 lbs., Knut is too big for his current enclosure, zoo officials say. And zookeeper Heiner Klös, recently told the German magazine Der Spiegel that Knut needs to be treated like the rest of his neighbors.

“We have 14,000 animals here and we won’t let our zoo be reduced to just Knut,” said Klös. “There are no plans to move him despite all the speculation. But in the long term he won’t be able to live in his current enclosure.”

“Knut will spend Christmas in Berlin,” Peter Drüwa, director of the Neumünster Zoo (which, along with the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, owns Knut) told the German news agency DPA. “But I’m not so sure he’ll spend Easter there.”

Losing Knut would also certainly cost the zoo business. Since the then-cuddly white bear made his debut in 2007 alongside his trainer, the late Thomas Dörflein – who nursed him back to health after he had been rejected by his mother – Knut has turned into a cash-cow, reportedly responsible for 27% of all visits to the Berlin zoo.

Members of his army of fans are determined to keep the white bear in Germany’s capital. “He means a lot to many people. When you’re with him you forget your problems for a little while,” Hartmut Wiedenroth, the co-founder of Knut Forever in Berlin, told Der Spiegel.

“I think many people would even be prepared to donate money,” added Wiedenroth. “He’s come to symbolize the city.”

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