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Crazy about Knut

 Translation by Kepi

The 5th of December 2007. A bear turns one year old in Zoo Berlin. But this isn't just any birthday celebration, but Knut's birthday celebration. No animal before has inspired so many around the world.

 

One year ago, in the seclusion of the bear section, two little ice bears came into the world. One of the two died after a short time. The other survived.

 

When Knut's mother Tosca did not take care of her babies, a man stepped in the mother-role. Chief zookeeper Thomas Dörflein had everything prepared.

 

TD: My bed was here, the incubator was ready, the veterinarian was prepared.

 

Instead of a warm fur of the mother, a 37-degree parrot incubator. Young ice bears are very susceptible to infection. For Knut, everything must be as clean as possible.

 

[TD describes the steps he took to keep everything sterile: handwashing, gloves, the bottle, the nipple--everything that touched Knut was disinfected.]

 

The first weeks were critical, a battle for survival with all means. [they did all they could]

 

[DocS on injecting Knut with Tosca's blood during the first days, to give him the antibodies young animals usually get from their mother's milk, and how important this is.]

 

When Knut had fevers, Thomas Dörflein held his breath.

 

TD: Within an hour, his body temperature went from normal to over 40.

 

[DocS on how they were always anxious, and how TD was there the whole time for the first months, but no matter how experienced TD was, DocS would sit at home and wonder how the little one was doing.]

 

Around the clock, Knut's health was watched.

 

[R.Opitz on how stressful handfeeding is during the first months, wondering whether it's going well, and waking and waking and waking.]

 

At 44 days, Knut was able to move from the incubator to the sleeping box.

 

When Knut sleeps, the day was not at an end for Thomas Dörflein, who had to record how much milk Knut drank, how high his body temperature was, whether the little one was active or lethargic.

 

(6:00) [TD, RH, and MR talk about how TD moved in to stay with Knut.]

RH: A couple of plastic bags. He didn't have anything else. And two mattresses, given to him by a colleague.

 

TD: Sleeping bag and a few things. You don't need anything else.

 

MR: We removed our tools from the storeroom, and then it was his room.

 

TD: They were my tools. [Laughter.]

 

MR: In this case it was ours, because you were taking care of Knut.

 

Thomas Dörflein and veterinarian André Schüle were the only ones who had contact with Knut during the first weeks. They regularly made videos, not imagining that these pictures would stand half the world on its head.

 

[DocS on how he had no idea that his pictures/videos would be grounds for such great interest.]

 

Knut grew and thrived. But the 24-hour [constant care] cost his surrogate mother much strength.

 

TD: When you're completely exhausted, you break the bottle and everything goes wrong. And at night, when the bed is completely soiled, at that moment [you think] how horrible [this all is].

 

But the beautiful moments outweighed the horrible.

 

(8.45) [TD explains the use of baby oil, because Knut was suffering from infantile eczema (similar to dandruff), and the baby oil helped to make his skin smoother and more supple.

 

TD: It wouldn't have been absolutely necessary, but first of all it smelt nice and Knut liked it too.

 

And it pleased the ice bear baby. At 10 weeks, he drank from a dish.

 

Now as before, Knut's development was recorded by the video camera of André Schüle.

 

[DocS and TD looking at video DocS has just made. DocS describes the button eyes and black nose.]

 

(9.38) TD: The moment when he opened his eyes and looks at you, that's a very special moment. Then you're simply lost. Well...

 

MR: That's when he got his name. One day Thomas came in and said: He looks like Knut. After that we still pored over plenty of name books but the name stuck.

 

RH: But Knut fits. It's easy to use for telling him off when he is up to some mischief. You can easily shout it. You can put your foot down with it. That's okay.

 

Before Knut can get into mischief, he must learn much. [Description of using the car mats to help him run.]

 

(10:30) TD: He couldn't get up his hindlegs. The front was okay, but for the back it just didn't work. That's when I had the idea about those car rubber mats because they have those segments. That worked pretty quickly so that he straightened himself and started walking properly.

 

RH: Jump start.

 

TD: His race course. Using four-wheel drive. Before that he just had front-wheel drive.

 

With four-wheel drive and car mats. Knut conquered the hearts of the zookeepers. Every day with him is worthwhile.

 

(11:20) TD: The bear himself is the reward. It just was a lot of fun.

 

RH: Just as any father who can relate to his child when he is able to play with him. That's when it starts to get interesting. Well, for me it really became interesting when we could play with him. Even when he was very small.

 

MR: You start building an emotional relationship like you would do with a puppy.

 

[RH on how it was worthwhile.]

 

(12:48) [Description of Knut's formula: milk, pureed chicken.] Knut can scarcely wait. Knut enjoys it.

 

Afterwards, he takes a shower.

 

(13:55) The first trip to the bear courtyard. The little bear is torn between anxiety and wanting to explore. The adventurer overcomes.

 

While in the bear courtyard, idyllic sunshine prevails, there is darkness in the press.

 

[On FA's {not named} quote in B.Z.]: that Knut should have been left to die since his mother did not take care of him, rather than be raised in a species-inappropriate manner. Later the quote was retracted, but the curiosity about the bear developed.

 

Diana Magnay/CNN: The story was based on a misunderstanding {FA's claim that he was misquoted}. If [FA] had not said, or had not been quoted as saying, that Knut should not live, no one would have reported about Knut.

 

[BB on how people read this and the zoo started getting letters and calls etc.]

 

[BB's visit to Knut. He asks TD if everything is okay, if Knut is doing well, and if Knut drank well; TD agrees by repeating each. They confirm that Knut is not a teddy but a beast of prey.]

 

[BB on the strong personal connection (of a baby ice bear) with the mother.]

 

The parents are viewed from a distance, because the son cannot come close to them. Tosca, Knut's mother, is 21 years old. Lars, Knut's stately father, is 14 years old and also born in a zoo, in Münich.

 

Knut is growing, and [on his contact with water].

 

[TD on how water is Knut's element. He calls Knut "sweet mouse." On flat/shallow water (versus deeper water in the original video).]

 

(19:20) [Knut learning about deeper still water].

 

(20:00) Knut is 100 days old and [learning about deeper water].

 

Once the water test has been passed, so much courage, so much deserved.{because Knut was so brave, he has earned his meal.} A small bear has enormous hunger. [TD on the quantity Knut drinks etc.]

 

(21:25) For dessert, a portion of petting. The cuddly fur is something else.

 

[TD on Knut's fur: fluffy and very thick]

 

(21:57) Knut's curiosity grows. A morning excursion through the zoo widens his play-space.

 

TD: The adventurer on the meadow. The Knut, he must run a lot on the meadow, and it pleases him, right? [TD tells Knut not to drink the water.]

 

(22:48) TD: Eventually the need to be active was so great and we only had this small courtyard in here, that I started going out with him, as he followed me everywhere anyway. If not, it wouldn't have worked. And he had a lot of fun outside. First, right here on the grass patch, that's where he liked to play. And also looking at all the other animals, he liked that too.

 

Knut's own relations come out of their home.

 

(23:25) TD: The reactions (of his parents) were always the same, apart from the very first time. That's when they really gaped at him like ... The big polar bears ... they just stared at him as if this couldn't be true, and then they went into the water immediately, coming to the plexiglass wall to have a closer look.

 

(23:50) TD: Yeah, that's Daddy. There you go. Knut is already attacking.

 

While Knut astonished his parents, the publicity was also astonishing.

[Regina Köhler/Berliner Morgenpost on the hype surrounding Knut.] The Morgenpost had reporters covering the Zoo and Tierpark, so naturally they reported about Knut.

 

Peter Griesbach, chief zookeeper and photographer, was the only one who could always offer new photographs of Knut.

 

[PGriesbach on the enormous number of inquiries for pictures that he as a zookeeper received, how the telephone rang all the time.] Unbelievable.

 

DocS on how everyone kept asking when Knut's first official presentation would be, in the weeks preceding that.

 

[Scenes from the Auftritt/debut; Ragnar Kühne at 25:47]

 

Great excitement in front of the enclosure. Behind the scenes, calmness.

 

[TD on the madness of the scene.] Knut is sweet, but [they're | this is] crazy.

 

Diana Magnay/CNN: I have never seen it before, so many camera teams and they came from all over, from New Zealand, from Pakistan, from all over. It was really something else.

 

For the zookeepers, it was not a big excitement.

 

[RH on how the cages still had to be cleaned, the other bears still had to be taken care of.]

 

(27:00) The star of the day works for a while on his mask.

 

TD to Knut: Did you enjoy what you drink?

 

Nuckeln, drinking, and a quick wash. Finally Knut bathes while the fans wait for him outside.

 

(27:25) Today Knut shouldn't get too overexcited.

 

TD: When he is keyed up like this he always starts biting. That I don't want, not while the Environmental Minister is here.

 

TD: Can you already see them? [comes to see] My God. How horrible.

 

(27:52) MR: Because I never thought it would become such a hype, I collected all those first newspaper articles and kept the clippings. [Laughter.] Meanwhile I have a huge folder with all those paper snippets ... well, the newspaper articles. But later on it was so much I couldn't keep it up. I had never imagined that it would take on such proportions. None of us did. And for the premiere ... there were so many people, it was unbelievable.

 

(28:22) The day is celebrated not only by the camera teams traveling there, but also Environmental Minister Sigmar Gabriel became Knut's sponsor. For the press gathered there, the little bear is declared the mascot for protection of the Arctic. Now Knut is also responsible for that issue. Although he is responsible for so much, he plays it cool.

 

Nevertheless, Knut's first debut resounded around the globe.

 

BB: A colleague in Wichita, Kansas, sent me an e-mail on the 23rd of March. He had seen the debut on CNN. It went all around the world.

 

After an eventful day, it is quitting time for the new superstar. Knut coolly mastered his debut.

 

[TD on how many people were there, how Knut played a lot. TD asks Knut if he isn't tired.]

 

Everyone wants Knut, but Knut wants only one person: his foster-papa.

 

The sleeping box calls.

 

TD: Time to sleep, no? {Knut: No!}

 

[RH compares Knut to human children, who don't want to leave their playmates to take a nap.]

 

And the visitors came for their daily dose of Knut, twice a day for one hour. The Knut shows were moderated by chief zookeeper Reimon Opitz.

 

[ROpitz on how everyone wanted to see Knut with their own eyes at the enclosure.]

 

[ROpitz prompting audience for "big applause."]

 

The mass of visitors streamed into the Zoo. Within a short time, Knut because the most-photographed animal.

 

[ROpitz on how everyone wanted to see Knut, how happy they were when they saw Knut, how those in the back would jump up for a better view.]

 

Knut, however, means more to people than merely an ice bear gentleman growing up. He enchants them.

 

DocS: People have had their fill of bad things--war, problems, assassinations, death. Here is a very beautiful story; at the moment, there is no story more beautiful than this one in the whole world, about a zoo, a very special keeper, and a totally sweet ice bear baby he takes care of. [How people try to spend their spare time there.]

 

Regina Köhler/Berliner Morgenpost: People are so burdened with their own problems. For them this is a ray of hope, and they seize on this story, which is all positives: Knut survived, his foster-father found him and took care of him, he's growing up, he's not sick--he's managing.

(36:04) [on sleeping in the sun?]

 

The line in front of Knut's enclosure grew and grew and grew and grew.

 

ROpitz: It was important for them to really see the human–animal relationship, what little Knut did with Thomas Dörflein. And that was what was so interesting.

 

TD: When I was with him in front near the visitors, the look on their faces—I had never seen anything like it, fully impressed.

 

[RH on how the people screamed.]

 

The whole world was enraptured by Knut.

 

Within one month, 500,000 fans paid the ice bear baby a visit. Up to now, more than 1 million. With the number of visitors, the claims on Knut also climbed.

 

[Fans express their adoration.]

 

Knut shows the people many beautiful moments to unite them in the collective happy feeling.

 

(39:40) And where there are many fans, there is also fan mail.

 

[MR reads poem (describing the Knut shows) and offers it to TD. TD notes Knut with rucksack.]

 

[DocS delivers mail: letters, gifts, requests for autographs, and a clock.]

 

[RH on how TD received hundreds of letters and other things, including T-shirts and a Brazilian hat.]

 

The press continues to report as much as possible.

 

[Regina Köhler on how they always showed pretty photos of Knut's development.]

 

New Knut blogs are always emerging. On the RBB blog alone, there are a million visits each month. The Knut society exchanges very piece of news about the ice bear's life. Every detail, from his weight to his mental condition, are posted.

 

The Weltkarte (world map on RBB site) of the bloggers shows that the interest knows no boundaries.

 

(42:00) AdmineDoro: The weblog had from the beginning very international access. Within a short time, the weblog readers began to translate the postings. Within a half-hour, translations into Chinese, Japanese, Polish, English, Portuguese—you name it—were available, and people from other lands could make comments. The large international [community]—I believe a weblog is an ideal platform for that.

 

AdmineDoro: The farthest distant blogger that we know of is on the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean.{Birgit, die Dame vonne Insel}

 

(42:50) Jazmin/Caracas, Venezuela: I'm here for Knut's birthday. I look on the blog 2 to 3 times every day. I read all the entries, write poems, and whatever.

 

(43:10) Knuti-Judi/Connecticut, Brigitte from Canada, Christa from Bonn

 

Knuti-Judi: Addiction is the word for that. Every day, morning and night, I have to check to see what's going on. Every day, there are new pictures. ["And of course, the pictures are everything."] Knut brings together people from all over the world.

 

(43:32) [Scroll-through of RBB blog shows Leafpure's announcement of reopening of knog.leafpure.com]

 

Knut brings the world together. His own world becomes bigger. A move into his own cage, where he will spend the night. The room-sharing with Thomas Dörflein is dissolved. The first small steps on the way to independence.

 

House inspection with his trusted circle [of friends]. Knut's new interior decorating is made for playing.

 

TD: Should I come in with you?

 

TD or MR: Is it possible {that TD can fit}?

 

MR: He's {Knut is} climbing up on top.

 

MR: Normally he flips out when the cover is closed, but not when Papa is there.

 

(45:32) TD: One must make a conscious effort so that he {Knut} sees that I cannot spend my whole life with him, or spend a few years with him, naturally because.... {TD does not finish statement; presumably, because Knut will become too big and potentially dangerous for his human Papi} He must learn that he must stay here. He must learn that it is normal to be alone.

 

Something else Knut must learn: like all children, ice bear children also lose their baby teeth. That is associated with pain.

 

TD: Today he has a fat cheek. He doesn't want to play.

 

But he doesn't hurt too much to eat. A little meal in pleasant company makes him quickly forget the pain. And the entrance of the veterinarians is unnoticed.

[DocS discusses with TD using the bar to hold open Knut's mouth, so DocS can examine Knut's teeth. DocS calls to Knut: "fatty Knut!" DocS on how Knut's teeth are developing.] Watch out for my finger.

 

(48:00) Knut grows not only larger but also fatter.

 

The visitors are always fed with new information about Knut.

 

[ROpitz on how the visitors cite what they have heard about Knut's diet: He likes to eat croissants, he ate his first fish, etc.]

 

[BB on Knut's diet: not a specific calorie intake.]

 

TD: Hey Knut, come here. We'll trade. There. {TD exchanges the croissant for a carrot.}

 

TD: Is it normal for an ice bear to eat croissants? I think not.

 

Nevertheless, the little ice bear gets to live it up in the kitchen. But not with impunity. Afterwards he goes on the scale.

 

TD: Go in there. Don't be this way. That's it, so beautiful. There you go.

 

With a good 6 months of age, Knut weighs over 36 kg {79 lb}. He is no longer a baby.

 

TD: A small surprising child with sharp teeth and a strong bite.

 

(50:22) A highlight for the audience, and a milestone in Knut's development: the bear conquers his own element.

 

TD: When he came [into the water] the first time, I dragged him in. [Everyday TD and Knut practiced more intensively, then Knut played in the water.] Now he can swim and dive great. He had a good romp.

 

His keepers also had a good romp. Romped [with Knut] after they took Knut into their hearts.

 

RH: As a child, I never avoided diving into ice cold water; I always enjoyed it like crazy. When you swim with him, the water is not so cold.

 

(51:51) Adult ice bears spend more than one-third of the day in water. Knut is already very close to that.

 

[RH on how fun it is to swim and dive with Knut.]

 

This unforgettable experience is granted only to Knut's keepers.

 

[MR on Knut jumping at/swimming to him quickly.]

 

TD: His element is water, and he is totally overwound{wound up} in water. To play with him in the courtyard or on land is nice, but in the water is a little bit different.

 

[TD on the underwater camera.] To watch how he acts in the water was interesting. A valuable experience.

 

(53:54) Nuckern, the characteristic sound of Knut's life.

 

The famous behavioral scientist Günther Tembrock comes just for this reason. {to study Knut's sounds}

 

[GT on the two sounds an ice bear baby makes: the nuckern and the wolf-like cry.]

 

At 89 years old, Günther Tembrock still lectures at Berlin's Humboldt University. For decades, he has collected animal sounds.

 

[GT on the sound Knut makes, which is innate.] The sound is normal for an ice bear of his age with its mother, who usually has 2–3 children, on their way home.

 

TD {justifying his discipline of Knut to GT}: He blames anyone except himself. He looks for someone to blame.

 

[TD on how he has to be strict with Knut now, before he gets too big.]

 

[How Knut's morning excursions through the zoo are threatened by his stubbornness.] Nevertheless, he has learned much during his walk.

 

DocS: When you talk with people, the one important thing to understand about it and what is always repeated is that they are fascinated to see how the ice bear behaves with his keeper and plays, just like a young animals play with each other and like young animals associate with their mothers.

 

(57:00) Lying in wait, [looking] imposing, attack. All lessons for life.

 

Knut visits the polar wolves. There is interest on both sides, but with different attractions.

 

TD: They want to bite him to death, he wants to play a little.

 

Both will probably never be friends for life.

 

And because he keeps paying less attention to [TD's] noises/sounds, the walks come to an end.

 

Instead, Knut gets something new: his own small enclosure.

(58:38) TD: He has done very well with everything—the move into the sleeping-box, the move from the sleeping-box into the cage, then his move to his own enclosure.

 

Alone lamenting as consolation. Increasingly more often, Knut must manage without his human caretakers.

 

TD: This is all new for him. In nature, of course, he would be with his mother, but he lives in the zoo, and there he must always learn a little faster.

 

Nevertheless, the weaning is carefully planned in small steps. The two still swim together, to the great delight of their fans. Knut and Thomas Dörflein are a Dream Team.

 

Then the end of the Knut Shows came sooner than expected.

 

(1:00:06) BB: I intervened rather severely once, when I broke off the show with those bathing romps right before the summer holidays, because I felt that the weight development of the bear progressed rather rapidly. And I also wanted to channel the whole thing over the entire day. This thing, twice a day, created such expectations that sometimes when people were five minutes late, they weren't able to see him any more.

 

Even without the shows, the world is crazy about Knut. Every step of the bear is commented upon.

 

Knut has meanwhile become familiar with his own enclosure. But there is need for getting used to the longer absence of his foster papa. Thomas Dörflein has several days free.

 

The food for Knut is provided through the bars, more or less normal for a zoo animal. But for Knut this procedure is not a normal occurrence. He wants more than anything his Papa Dörflein.

 

(1:01:58) TD: First of all I have to do my work, and then I'm going to let him out. Then he'll join me in the food kitchen...yeah.

 

Now the bear is again satisfied.

 

TD: Like a child who is happy when its mother comes back. Now everything is in order.

 

[MR and TD on Knut's nuckeling "like crazy" on TD, after TD has been away 2 days, but TD notes that it is happening fewer times.]

 

The Knut fans still wait anyway. The moments together in front of the public in the zoo are more seldom now.

 

[TD tells Knut to eat first.]

 

The nuckeln is now given in small doses.

(1:04:03) TD: The 'nuckling' {= suckling} has decreased immensely. If you think about it, during the shows it used to be up to 30 times, now it's maybe twice in the mornings, no more than that. It just stops by itself.

 

At the full age of more than 7 months and a weight of a good 60 kg {132 lb}, Knut's drive for petting/cuddling is still indestructible.

 

TD: To lie with him in the bed is great fun. When he lies near me and sleeps and nuckelt, it's nice.

 

ROpitz: Within the heart itself stands the love between the animal and the zookeeper. Every day, it becomes {bewegt} more intensive.

 

(1:05:21) Knut is almost a normal zoo animal. He spends the day in his own enclosure. The object of interest of information in the press continues.

 

[DocS on the continuing interest of the media in Knut's development, how they kept looking for something new to report, what has he done recently.]

 

But the real story does not die down/run out. Once again, Knut changes enclosures. This one is larger, prettier, more colorful/varied. Even here his foster-papa leaves him. Here Knut must explore his house and grounds/courtyard himself. Thomas Dörflein remains only as an onlooker.

 

TD: He has a waterfall, natural ground, nice water-ditch, therefore everything that he needs.

 

The new enclosure is well received, also with the visitors.

 

[Visitors on the new enclosure, how the other one was so small, and how TD is Knut's papa and mama together.]

 

[TD negotiates with the visitors how/where they want him to sign autographs: on the front or the back of the cards, on the bear or the sack.]

 

TD: It's normal to speak with the people in the zoo, but it goes on when I have free time or when I go out or when I go eat. Everywhere they want to speak with me.

 

[RH on how people request pictures etc.]

 

TD: I never looked for that; it overtook me.

 

(1:08:58) [BB on how TD, with his long hair and swimming with the bear, is naturally attractive to people.]

 

Knut is a show talent even without his keeper. Peter Griesbach is always looking for the photograph.

Peter Griesbach: Knut is very hard to photograph, with his white fur and the dark background. I dream of the perfect photograph, but I have not made it.

 

[How people watch Knut for many hours. Visitors on watching Knut.] Like a child, Knut makes me happy just watching him; he does people good. ... He has the prettiest feet, prettiest ears, prettiest nose; he's just cute.

 

[RH on how visitors think that Knut is only outside and has no contact with the keepers.]

 

He still has contact, behind the scenes. Now as before, when the zoo gates are closed. Meanwhile, Knut is a gentle giant, who still likes to play.

 

(1:11:42) TD: He still wants to 'nuckle'. He used to do it mostly when he felt insecure or tired. I'm sure that's completely normal. The bears we have got here, they're also doing it with their parents all the time. Feeling the warmth, and smelling, that's important for him too. And I'm giving it to him as long as he needs it. Although, say, in about two years time this won't be possible any more. Then he'll probably be too big.

 

In nature, young bears live 2 years with their mother. With handraising in the zoo, the separation comes earlier. This year, however, remains unforgettable for everyone.

 

DocS: He has become so big this year, so well developed, with only a few exceptions he was healthy the whole time. And I am proud to have helped and happy about that.

 

From Knut himself, no comment. Instead, a wish for his future.

 

TD: This is my same wish, that he find a nice zoo, and come together with a female ice bear the same age, and perhaps he can have father offspring. Well, that's the greatest thing, isn't it?

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