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Two zoos go Knuts over polar bear ownership

by Alan Harten
May 27, 2009

An unlikely candidate is involved in a Berlin custody dispute – three year old Knut, a polar bear who currently lives in the Berlin Zoo but is technically owned by the Neumunster zoo.

A Berlin judge has now ordered the two zoos to resolve the ownership rights to the bear.

Knut is at the centre of the battle due to the fact he has generated approximately €10m in entrance fees and merchandise.

The controversy arose because the Nuemunster Zoo loaned Knut’s father to the Berlin Zoo in 1999.

According to zoo’s unofficial policy, the firstborn animal as a result of the breeding is supposed to be given to the zoo which offered the breeding partner.

Thus, Nuemunster claims that part of the proceeds from Knut should go to them.

The polar bear has made headlines since his birth in 1999 when he became the first polar bear to be born at the Berlin zoo and survive, for three decades.

He was hand reared after being abandoned by his mother and is currently the largest grossing bear in Europe’s history.

It was recommended by a judge that Nuemunster be given €700,000, but the director of the Berlin Zoo rejected the settlement, claiming that the Berlin zoo would only pay out a maximum of €350,000 to Nuemunster.

The judge adjourned the case, giving both zoos two months to settle the matter.

The Berlin zoo’s director’s response was to give the Nuemunster zoo some penguins and be done with the matter.

The Nuemunster zoo of course did not respond favourably.

Nuemunster on the other hand does not have room for Knut to live, but is threatening to seize his custody if they do not receive money.

If the zoos do not agree by July 13th, the Berlin court, which is widely rumoured to favour Berlin, will rule by September 1st on Knut’s fate.

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