Baby Polar Bear an Online Celebrity

More than 15,000 e-mails arrived at the Nuremberg zoo this weekend with suggestions for a name for the tiny polar bear cub that is being hand-reared there.

The keepers are calling her Flocke as in flake for now, but the City of Nuremberg has invited the public to come up with names for the little one and thousands of people from all over the world have responded.

Front-runners right now are Franka, Lina, Snowwhite or Yuki Chan.

Earlier today, zoo director Dag Encke briefed the media and had nothing but good news. "She loves the bottle and is behaving very well. We're very satisfied how things are developing. She's not over the hill yet, it's still early days, but we're cautiously optimistic that she'll be just fine."

Zoo officials had initially determined not to interfere with the upbringing, but decided last week to separate the 5-week-old polar bear cub from its mother amid concern that the mother bear might harm or even kill the cub.

Two cubs of another polar bear in the same zoo had been killed by their mother earlier last week and the zoo had come under a barrage of criticism for not preventing that from happening.

Zoo officials, responding to that outcry, are now eager to keep the media informed about the cub's progress. There are daily press briefings about the cub's developments and German media are reporting even the most minute details.

"The little one now weighs about 85.5 ounces, she's getting a mix of sweet corn syrup and milk and it looks like she's adapting remarkedly well. We expect she'll open her eyes in the next several days," Encke said today. He added that mother bear Vera also seems to have calmed down and is doing better, overcoming the separation from her cub.

The city of Nuremberg, which owns the zoo, published two links — and — and more than 1.1 million people have visited them this weekend.

"There is such great interest in the polar bear cub by international media and people from all over the world are contacting us now," Nuremberg City spokesman Siegfried Zelnhefer told "The response to our Web site has been overwhelming, so much so that people had trouble to get on at certain times this weekend but the problem has been fixed."

Not everyone is happy about the zoo's decision to remove the cub from its mother and hand-feed it. Animal rights activist Juergen Ortmuller has filed a complaint with legal authorities claiming the zoo has violated European animal welfare laws because, he says, hand-rearing a polar bear cub interferes with Mother Nature.

"This is totally against animal protection laws and has nothing to do with proper upbringing of wild animals," Ortmüller told "It has profit written all over it, nothing but making profit, and that's all these zoo officials care for. I have taken the necessary steps to bring criminal charges against them for violating European animal welfare laws and I'm fully prepared to take them to court."

When asked about the accusation, Encke assured the media that he and his staff had nothing to worry about.

"My staff and I are confident that we've been acting in full compliance with … rules and regulations and our main concern right now is the well-being of our little polar bear cub. The public reaction seems prove enough that we're doing the right thing," he said.