Monday, April 30, 2007

RIP Cute Knut (Welcome old, ugly Knut)

It's a tragic fact of life. Celebrity polar bear cub Knut, now almost five months old, is gradually mutating from a fluffy porridge-lapping cub into a heavy bruiser with a penchant for meat off the bone. But the visitors are still flocking to see him.

Knut's days of extreme cuteness are numbered now that he has acquired a markedly longer snout and weighs a chubby 17 kilograms (37 pounds), twice as much as when he first appeared before an adoring public five weeks ago.

"His teeth are sharper and he's stronger, he still gets porridge but we now feed him beef on the bone occasionally," the zoo's bear expert Heiner Klös told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "He's calmed down a bit, he doesn't potter around as much as he used to and he's happy to sit on his own more often. But he still wanders back to his keeper to tank up on security."

Knut's faithful handler Thomas Dörflein has taken to wearing long-sleeved shirts or pullovers and gloves to protect himself when he handles Knut. But the polar bear cub immediately obeys when Dörflein has had enough and tells him to stop biting him with the stern command "Aus!"

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