Bear Clause: German Zoos in Legal Fight Over Knut

Bear has made millions for Berlin zoo through attendance, licensing

Knut, the  polar bear who captured hearts all over the world two years ago, has a price on his head.

Two German zoos are in a custody battle for the now full-grown, but still famous animal. The Berlin Zoo, Knut's current home, offered nearly $500,000 to the Neumuenster Zoo, which claims ownership of the bear. Neumuenster, home to Knut's father, wants $1 million.

Knut was born in captivity in Berlin to Tosca, a former circus performer, and mate Lars, who lives at the Neumuenster facility. He and his siblings were rejected by their mother at birth, and the other cubs died. But Knut, who was the size of a guinea pig, lived after spending a month and a half in an incubator.

He sparked a worldwide  phenomenon known as "Knutmania" after the German tabloid Bild quoted an animal rights activist who seemed to call for him to be killed rather than raised by human hands.

Knut's presence boosted attendance at the Berlin Zoo by 27% in 2007 alone, not to mention money made in licensing of posters, books, stuffed toys and a movie. The Berlin Zoo has acknowledged that a prior agreement gives ownership of Knut to Neumuenster, but says the zoo has no right to the royalties the bear has generated. 

Neumuenster wants an accounting of how much revenue Knut has brought in for the Berlin Zoo before it drops its claim over ownership.

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