BERLIN (AFP) – Move over Knut, there’s a new uber-cute polar bear in town. Meet Fritz, the three-month-old ball of fluff that a Berlin zoo is hoping will capture hearts around the world.
Knut the polar bear shot to international stardom after he was abandoned by his mother and hand-reared in Berlin Zoo.
But the cuddly icon died suddenly of a suspected brain tumour in 2011 at the age of four, sparking grief among his army of fans.
East Berlin’s rival Tierpark zoo announced on Tuesday (Jan 31) that its new cub – born on Nov 3 – has been named
Fritz after it emerged as top choice in a local radio competition among 10,000 suggestions from all over the globe.
Fritz is the shortened form of Friedrich, the equivalent in German of “Fred” or “Freddy”.
“I am very happy with the choice of the name – it’s a short and cute name that foreign visitors will remember easily,” said the zoo’s director Andreas Knieriem. To the great relief of his keepers,
Fritz has made it through the crucial first three months when a captive cub’s chances of survival hang in the balance.
Tierpark is now hoping Fritz can provide a new mascot for a city which counts a bear as its heraldic symbol – a role that has been vacant since Knut’s untimely demise.
A bronze statue of Knut now stands in the west Berlin Zoo, which earned millions of euros from visitors and merchandise.
At the height of his fame, Knut appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and on German postage stamps.
Tierpark said visitors would not be able to catch a glimpse of Fritz and his parents, Tonja and Woldja, until the spring.
Its Arctic habitat threatened by global warming, the polar bear is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A European Union breeding plan is attempting to boost numbers of the bear, whose population in the wild stands at around 26,000, according to the IUCN.