Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 20:49 UK

German zoos row over Knut profits

Knut at the Berlin Zoo (15 May 2009)
Fully grown Knut looks little like the bear which captured hearts in 2007

Two German zoos are locked in a legal dispute over Knut, the polar bear whose dramatic first few days of life in 2006 made him famous around the world.

Neumunster Zoo, which legally owns Knut, is demanding a share of the profits he has made for Berlin Zoo, where Knut was born and remains today.

They say Berlin has offered to buy Knut from them but that the price offered is not high enough.

A court in Berlin has ordered the zoos to settle their dispute by 13 June.

Neumunster Zoo loaned Knut's father, Lars, to Berlin for breeding in 1999, on the agreement that the first cub he fathered would eventually be returned to them.

But Knut, who was born in late 2006 and controversially hand-reared after his mother rejected him, has become a Berlin celebrity and many do not want to see him leave the city.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin says the now fully grown Knut has been something of a cash cow for Berlin zoo, which sells everything from Knut toys and jigsaws to mobile phone ring tones.

The bear has also brought thousands of extra visitors to the attraction.

In 2007 alone, he generated more than 5m euros (£4.2m; $6.3m) in extra income for the zoo.

Footage of Knut in March 2007, shortly before his first public appearance

To keep Knut in the capital, Berlin has offered to buy him for 350,000 euros. But Neumunster wants double that amount and is also demanding to know exactly how much money Knut has made for the zoo.

Arne Strassmay, lawyer for Neumunster Zoo, said the two zoos had been having constructive talks and wanted those to continue.

"We don't want to have the situation where we say you either pay or we take Knut away," he said.

The judge in Berlin ordered the two zoos to continue talking to each other and reach an agreement by mid-June.

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