Courtroom wranglings over price of famous Berlin polar bear Knut
May 19, 2009, 15:20 GMT
Berlin - Berlin's famous zoo resident, Knut the polar bear, was the subject of financial wranglings Tuesday, as zoo chiefs tried to agree on the sale of the bear from Neumuenster Zoo to Berlin Zoo, where he was born and gained worldwide fame.
Peter Druewa, the chief executive of Neumuenster Zoo which owns Knut, said he was not prepared to sell the bear for less than 700,000 euros (944,000 dollars), while Berlin Zoo refused to pay 'a cent more' than 350,000 euros.
Knut won global fame after he was rejected by his mother at birth and hand-reared by his keeper for 108 days, before becoming too big and dangerous to play with humans.
His keeper Thomas Doerflein died of a heart attack last October, aged 44.
'If Berlin has such a famous bear, surely it can let it cost something to secure the bear for Berlin,' Judge Philip Hegerman appealed. But lawyer Joachim Gabler said, as the recipient of public funds, Berlin Zoo carried a responsibility to spend wisely.
Knut's fame is estimated to have brought in revenues of roughly six million euros through merchandising and even as a star of the silver screen.
Druewa signalled his intentions as he appeared in court Tuesday, wearing a tie decorated with polar bears. Berlin's zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz was seen leafing through a newspaper in a show of indifference.
Knut legally belongs to Neumuenster Zoo, which loaned his father Lars to Berlin. The zoo, 60 kilometres north of Hamburg, doesn't have room to house Knut but is threatening to remove him from Berlin if no settlement is reached.
The courtroom was filled with Knut fans, some of whom have previously campaigned for the bear to stay in Berlin.
'I think Berlin should up the ante so Knut can stay,' 59-year-old Dorothea Tesauro said, who travels 580 kilometres from her home in Munich every month to visit the polar bear.
No settlement was reached on Tuesday. If the two zoos cannot agree on a price by July 13, the Berlin court will reach its own verdict on September 1.
The court made no secret of the fact that it was likely to rule in favour of the Berlin zoo where Knut achieved his fame.
Speaking after Tuesday's two-hour hearing, Druewa said he hoped for a constructive dialogue with his Berlin counterpart.
Blaszkiewitz gave no comment. His previous offer, to reimburse Neumuenster with a pair of penguins and be done with the matter, still sits deep.