It's a girl! Maybe. Zoo officials in Nuremberg announced Wednesday that Germany's new polar bear cub is probably a female. The cub's eyes are not yet open and its sexual organs not completely developed, so there's still a chance she could be a he, the Nuremberg zoo's deputy director Helmut Maegdefrau told reporters.
But the yet-unnamed 4-week-old cub — taken from its mother, Vera, on Tuesday amid concerns she could harm or even kill the newborn — is "lively, strong and well-fed," Maegdefrau said.
Four keepers are caring for the baby bear, who weighed in at 3.75 pounds, feeding it high-fat milk every four hours. "So far, it can only crawl a little," Maegdefrau said, noting that the cub does little more at the moment than sleep.
The cub in Bavaria is the first in Germany to be handraised by its keepers since Knut, who became a celebrity after being rescued in 2006 when his mother rejected him. He was raised by hand, much to the delight of thousands of visitors to Berlin's zoo who avidly followed his growth from a roly-poly cub to a full-grown adult.
Another polar bear at Nuremberg, Vilma, gave birth around the same time as Vera but is believed to have killed and eaten her cubs earlier this week because they were sick.
The new cub will not be returned to its mother out of fear that Vera might eat it. The controversial decision to hand raise the cub was made after Vera was seen carrying the cub around the enclosure in her jaws.
"The mother was completely confused," Maegdefrau said.
Knut is hard act to follow
The Berlin zoo celebrated Knut's first birthday on Dec. 5 — and a year that saw zoo attendance up by 20 percent following Knut's debut in March 2007.
Unlike Berlin, the Nuremberg zoo is seeking another motherless polar or brown bear cub to raise alongside Vera's newborn. "That would be the best for the animal's development," Maegdefrau said.
Vera's cub is expected to make its public debut by early April. Unlike Knut, who was named by the Berlin zoo, Nuremberg's deputy mayor wants to hold a public competition to name the new cub.
Knut could be a hard act to follow. The boisterous polar bear, who now weighs more than 265 pounds, has his own blog and TV show, and has appeared in scores of articles worldwide, including the cover of the German Vanity Fair.
Too big to play with his keeper, Thomas Doerflein, he now has an enclosure all to himself.