Germany denied Knut sequel as polar bear eats cub

Polar bear Vera walks in her enclosure at the zoo in Nuremberg January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Thomas Langer

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - The death of a five-week-old polar bear cub at Nuremberg Zoo has dashed Germany’s hopes for a second bout of Knut-mania as keepers said they believed the baby had been eaten by its mother.

Female bears Vera and Wilma each gave birth to a cub in December but the zoo had prevented a media circus by forbidding any human contact. The bears remained undisturbed in a cave at the zoo in southern Germany.

However, after hearing whining from mother Wilma, keepers went in to investigate and failed to find Vera’s cub.

“We must come to the conclusion that she has eaten her baby,” the zoo’s deputy-manager, Helmut Maegdefrau, told Reuters Television.

The zoo faces severe criticism from German media and the public for not intervening.

The controversial question of saving cubs rejected by their mothers reflects the story of Berlin Zoo’s Knut -- the cub who shot to celebrity fame after being hand-reared.

Last year, Knut captured public sympathy after he was neglected by his mother Tosca. Since then Knut has become the first celebrity polar bear with his own brand, CD and book and even has Hollywood offering to film his life story.

As Germany’s latest polar bear fairytale faded away, Maegdefrau showed some hope: “We are optimistic the last cub will survive,” he said, adding the bond between Wilma and her baby had been strong over the last five weeks.

Reporting by Sarah Roberts, editing by Paul Casciato