Stories tagged Berlin Zoo

We've had a lot of posts here the past couple years about Knut, the polar bear sensation of the Berlin Zoo. But it appears his proverbial 15 minutes of fame are up. He recently celebrated his second birthday with little fanfare and the zoo that cashed in on his cuteness as a cub is now looking to relocate him to another zoo because he's grown larger than what his pen can comfortably hold. ABC News has all the details here. The Sunday edition of Good Morning America actually carried a segment on how zoo's capitalize on the cuteness of their newborns to increase their revenues.

With all the big news of last week, you might have overlooked this nugget from Berlin, Germany. Knut the polar bear cub is going on a diet. At eight months old, he now weighs a hefty 132 pounds. He’s especially got a sweet tooth for croissants. To keep Knut’s weight in check, he’ll be cutting down to three meals, from four, per day. And forget the croissants!


Crowds gather at the Berlin Zoo to see the polar bear cub Knut: Photo by Claudius Prosser at
Crowds gather at the Berlin Zoo to see the polar bear cub Knut: Photo by Claudius Prosser at

Poor Knut! The polar bear cub, abandoned by its mother, has been raised by zookeepers. As we reported in March, some “animal rights activists” demanded that the bear be killed, rather than be raised by humans. This led to great interest in the furry little fellow.

But all good things must come to an end. At five months of age, Knut is looking less and less like an adorable little cub, and more like a full-grown adult every day.

Animals that must fend for themselves as soon as they are born – many fish, insects, and reptiles – often hatch as fully formed, miniature versions of the adult. (Some may go through a larval stage, but development finishes early, long before the animal has reached its full adult size.) Animals that receive care from their parents, however – mammals and most birds – often look very different as children than they do as adults. Certain features are not yet fully developed. Scientists speculate that the parents are genetically programmed to respond in a caring manner to the infant appearance.

(This certainly seems to be the case with humans – just watch everybody ooh and ahh over a baby.)

In fact, the instinct is so strong that it even works across species. Newborn Knut, with his large head and small nose, reminds us of a baby’s features, and we react the same way. An adult bear, with its full snout, no longer generates this reaction. As we noted earlier, our ideas of “cuteness” can influence our feelings about nature, and which animals we are more likely to protect.