BERLIN (AFP) — The world-famous polar bear Knut turned one on Wednesday and polished off a giant fish cake at a birthday party in Berlin Zoo that was broadcast live on German television in a testimony to his star status.
Hundreds of children gathered at the zoo, some with birthday cards for the bear that became a tourist magnet after he was rejected by his mother and rescued from her cage by a keeper a year ago.
Thomas Doerflein bottle-fed the bear and slept next to him, strumming Elvis Presley songs on his guitar as lullabies, and accompanied his every step as he was presented to the public when he was four months old.
The cuddly white cub sent Berlin Zoo's shares soaring to an all-time high on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange as visitors queued in their thousands to watch him play in his rocky enclosure.
Stuffed toy "Knut" bears sold out several times over, the cub made it onto the cover of glossy magazine Vanity Fair and Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise and his daughter Suri came to visit him, as did Leonardo DiCaprio.
But the rush to see the bear slowed as he began to put on weight and lost his cute looks. Knut now weighs a hefty 115 kilogrammes (253 pounds) and is no longer snow white.
As school children serenaded him on Wednesday, N-TV television news channel remarked that the crowds of visitors for his birthday were now an exception, reminiscent of the old days.
But the bear continues to be a mascot for the struggle to stop the ice caps melting and save the polar bear. The government used his logo in a campaign to stop global warming.
The Berlin Zoo estimates that its takings were about 10 million euros (14.7 million dollars) higher than usual last year thanks to Knut.
The national mint this week issued 25,000 special commemorative silver coins to mark his birthday.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »