BERLIN – Television crews and photographers jockeyed with hundreds of excited children at Berlin's Zoo on Friday, all eager to for a first glimpse of a fuzzy white polar bear cub who has captured hearts across the globe.
"We want Knut! We want Knut" chanted a group of third graders who pressed against the railing surrounding what is normally the brown bears' area, cleared for use by the polar cub because of its prominent position at the zoo.
Sniffing and stumbling over the uneven, grassy ground, Knut delighted the crowds by clambering over a log and sniffing curiously at the legs of his handler, Thomas Doerflein.
"I'm so happy to be able to see him today," said Leila Klamann, 9, whose school class was visiting the zoo. "And he's so cute!"
The cub, born to the zoo on Dec. 5, has already captured the hearts of Berliners through his own video podcast and TV series. Star photographer Annie Leibovitz also came to take his portrait for an environmental campaign.
Poking his nose and then his paws into a stream, the 15-week-old cub appeared interested in exploring his new environment Friday, but returned frequently to Doerflein, who has raised him by hand since his mother rejected him and his brother shortly after their birth. The other cub later died.
The fate of the nearly 19-pound bear stirred a media flap when an animal activist insisted that the cub would have been better off dead than raised by humans. The zoo flatly rejected the idea.
The general public will be able to see Knut again over the weekend. He is scheduled to make brief appearances with his handler.
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