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Baby polar bear delights Berlin during public debut

BERLIN -- With a sniff and a stumble, a baby polar bear made his public debut at the Berlin Zoo yesterday, delighting hundreds of excited children who packed around the pen's railings.

"We want Knut! We want Knut!" chanted a group of third-graders who came to see the zoo's star, dubbed "cute Knut" by the German media.

Moving cautiously over the uneven, grassy ground, Knut clambered over a log and sniffed curiously at the legs of his handler, Thomas Doerflein.

"I'm so happy to be able to see him today," said Leila Klamann, 9, whose class was visiting the zoo. "And he's so cute!"

Some children climbed nearby playground towers for a better view.

Born at the zoo on Dec. 5, the cub has become famous through his video podcast and television series. Star photographer Annie Leibovitz also came to take his portrait for an environmental campaign.

Poking his nose into a stream, the 15-week-old cub appeared interested in exploring the pen yesterday, but returned frequently to Doerflein, who has raised him by hand since his mother rejected him and his brother shortly after their birth. The other cub later died.

"He looks even better and sweeter than he does on TV," said Julian Fuerster, 10. "And more cuddly."