BERLIN — For a superstar, Knut the polar bear sure is lonely.
As a cub, the former ball of white fluff became an international byword for cuteness after being rejected by his mother at birth. But now he's reportedly suffering from another snub: He is being bullied by the female bears in his enclosure.
Zookeepers at the Berlin Zoo placed Knut in the same space as Nancy, Katjuscha and his mother Tosca in the hopes he would form an attachment with one of them. But instead of romance, tales of violent maulings have emerged.
"Instead of enjoying himself with the three ladies, he cowers fearfully in a corner," AFP news agency quoted Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily as saying.
One video shows Katjuscha throwing herself at Knut's throat and then pushing him into the water.
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"These sad images of Knut are pulling the heartstrings of people around the world," Bild newspaper declared.
The bear's keeper is sanguine about the encounters, however.
"For the time being, Knut is not yet an adult male and doesn't yet know how to get respect like his father did. But day by day, he is imposing himself and with time, this type of problem will go away," AFP quoted Heiner Kloes as saying.
Knut, now age 3, was hand-raised after his mother rejected him. He became an global celebrity in early 2007 but has since grown rapidly into a hulking 440-pound predator.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.