Move over Knut:Germany's new polar bear cub debuts

BERLIN Wed Apr 9, 2008 1:58pm EDT

1 of 6. Polar bear cub Flocke (snowflake) swims in the water on her first public appearance in her new outside enclosure in the Nuremberg zoo, April 8, 2008. Flocke was separated from her mother Vera after officials at the Nuremberg zoo became concerned she might harm the cub.

Credit: Reuters/Alexandra Beier

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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Germany's newest celebrity polar bear cub, Snowflake, stepped into the limelight on Wednesday, making her first public appearance at Nuremberg Zoo in the southern state of Bavaria.

The zoo hopes she will charm as many visitors as Knut the polar bear cub did in Berlin last year and it says it is expecting up to 25,000 visitors on busy days.

Knut earned Berlin Zoo about 5 million euros ($7.87 million) last year thanks to a flood of visitors and an array of merchandise from soft toys and mugs to books and DVDs.

Snowflake, who weighs about 22 kg, rolled in the mud, climbed up the rocks and splashed water over her bright, white fur coat to the delight of onlookers, many of whom were children.

But German media reported that the roughly 500 fans gathered at Snowflake's enclosure to see her first public outing fell short of some wilder expectations.

Journalists and television crews from over 300 news outlets had descended on the zoo on Tuesday for Snowflake's media debut.

The cub was born last December in the zoo and has been hand-reared by keepers since January after concerns for her welfare were raised. Her mother had repeatedly dropped her on the ground and down stone steps.

But some animal protection campaigners have criticized the zoo for using Snowflake, or "Flocke" in German, commercially.

Berlin, however, need not panic just yet. Germany's Finance Minister and Environment Minister on Wednesday unveiled a stamp featuring the older bear, now a shaggy 130 kg.

The idea of the stamp is to draw attention to the need to protect biological diversity.

"Knut is of course an excellent symbol for the link between climate protection and the diversity of species because without ice, there would be no polar bears," said Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

(Writing by Madeline Chambers, editing by Paul Casciato)

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