BERLIN – "Cute Knut," Germany's celebrity polar bear cub, is turning into a moneymaker for the Berlin Zoo, which expects to bring in $3.3 million more than last year due to a dramatic rise in visitors.
The 6-month-old bear draws several hundred visitors each day, who line up behind metal gates for his 11 a.m. public viewing. Unfazed by the attention Tuesday, Knut rolled in the dirt under a broiling sun and chewed on the arm of his keeper.
Officials say the cub, the first polar bear born at the Berlin Zoo in 33 years, helped the zoo record its millionth visitor of the year in mid-May, a mark not typically reached until late July. Revenue is expected to rise to nearly $20 million this year from $16.6 million in 2006.
"Part of it is the weather effect, due to the particularly warm spring, and a large part is the Knut effect," Zoo director Gerald Uhlich said.
Knut was born Dec. 5 with a twin that later died. His mother rejected him and zoo workers had to raise the cub. Knut beguiled the public with his button-eyed face and gained international fame, even appearing in an Annie Leibovitz photo for Vanity Fair's Green Issue cover.
Aside from increased ticket income, the zoo is making money from an array of Knut products, such as a Knut DVD and stuffed toy versions of the polar cub.
There are also licensing deals with external vendors. The Berlin porcelain manufacturer KPM has released a porcelain Knut which costs $200, and candy maker Haribo has a bear-shaped Knut candy.