BERLIN, Germany, Dec. 5, 2008 -- He's no longer the adorable white fur ball who was nursed with a baby bottle. He has grown into a big bear, weighing 440 pounds, and his fur has gone from snow white to grayish brown, but Berliners just love their cute Knut.
To the disappointment of his many fans, however, no special celebrations are planned for the Berlin zoo's famous polar bear Knut, who turns 2 today.
Last year the zoo celebrated his first birthday with a huge party, complete with singing, an iced fruit-and-fish cake and a wooden birthday candle, and people arrived from all over Germany to join the celebrations.
This year there is no public party for the most famous polar bear in the world, and there is speculation that Knut may be sent away to live in another zoo, much to the disappointment of the many Berliners.
Many Berliners are distressed to hear that Knut, who became an international celebrity when he was rescued and reared at the zoo after his mother had neglected him a few days after he was born, may be leaving sooner rather than later.
"There is no decision yet as to when he will leave, but Berlin zoo has said from day one that he will be leaving as soon as he's old enough to reproduce," explained zoo spokeswoman Claudia Bienek. "We would love to keep him, but we don't have the space needed and our females are too old, so we're in touch with other zoos to find him a new home where he'll be able to mate with a fertile female partner. The decision will be taken sometime next year."
The zoo in the city of Neumuenster in Northern Germany, where Knut's father is from, has the right to decide where Knut should be spending his adult life when he's ready to mate.
"If Berlin can't build a new enclosure, we'll need to find a new place for him, but we're not in a mad rush. We can wait another year or two before Knut reaches sexual maturity," Neumuenster Zoo director Peter Druwa told ABC News, "but we want to make him a good home here and our female polar bears are at the right age to become his partners."
"The survival of species is more important than any individual," Berlin's zoo keeper Heiner Klos told The Associated Press in Berlin. "I won't hang on to Knut if it means keeping him with an old lady."
Several hundred people flocked to the Berlin zoo this morning, some even bringing presents like fruit and vegetables, while Knut enjoyed the day going after his daily chores, swimming and wandering around in his enclosure as if today was just another day in his polar bear life.