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Berlin’s star bear gets girlfriend

world Updated: Sep 09, 2009 01:37 IST

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Berlin's favorite polar bear Knut has a new companion: Giovanna, a female polar bear from Munich.

Fans hoping for a romantic relationship will be disappointed — Giovanna was not brought to Berlin to mate with Knut. The Munich zoo is renovating its bear enclosure and the young Giovanna needed a temporary home.

Berlin zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz said he hoped that "Knut will like his friend and that Giovanna will also be interested in Knut."

In a statement Tuesday he noted the two-year-old bears are not yet sexually mature.

Knut was hand-raised after his mother rejected him at birth. He rose to stardom in 2007 as a cute white ball of fluff, but has since grown into a hulking predator.

Raised by zookeepers. He was the first polar bear cub to survive past infancy at the Berlin Zoo in more than thirty years. At one time the subject of international controversy, he became a popular tourist attraction and commercial success.

After the German tabloid newspaper Bild ran a quote from an animal rights activist that seemingly called for the death of the young cub, a worldwide public outrage was caused as fans rallied in support of his being hand-raised by humans. Children protested outside the zoo, and many e-mails and letters expressing sympathy for the cub's life were sent from around the world. Knut became the center of a mass media phenomenon dubbed "Knutmania" that spanned the globe and quickly spawned numerous toys, media specials, DVDs, and books. Because of this, the cub was largely responsible for a significant increase in revenue, estimated at about five million euros, at the Berlin Zoo in 2007.