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Knut the polar bear meets his future roommate, gets slapped

September 30, 2009 |  5:20 pm

Knut and Gianna

Berlin's celebrity polar bear, Knut, has met his future roommate at last -- sans the fence that has separated the two since the newcomer arrived from Munich earlier this month.

That newcomer is Gianna (also known as Giovanna), a young female polar bear who normally lives at Munich's Hellebrunn Zoo.  She's expected to stay with Knut at the Berlin Zoo for about nine months while her Munich enclosure is renovated.  While keepers hope that the two will strike up a friendship -- which would be a first for Knut, who hasn't been housed with another polar bear since his mother rejected him as a cub -- fans hoping for romance to blossom aren't likely to get their wish any time soon.  Polar bears don't reach sexual maturity until they're about 5 years of age, still a few years off for both Knut (who will turn three later this year) and Gianna. 

It's clear already that Gianna isn't going to put up with any guff from Knut (perhaps she's heard the rumors that circulated last year labeling him a "publicity-addicted psycho"?); during the bears' initial meeting Tuesday morning, she lost no time in smacking him upside the head.  Previously, keepers at the Munich zoo had attempted to introduce her to a potential future mate, but Gianna was less than impressed and had to be relocated to another enclosure.  (Incidentally, her roommate at the enclosure to which she was moved happened to be Knut's grandmother!)

Keeper Heiner Klös told German news source Spiegel that Knut was "completely surprised and astounded" to discover Gianna in his enclosure and said he was shy in her presence.  The two met again this morning, and the zoo plans to introduce them slowly, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend together and watching them closely for signs of aggression or trouble.

Zoo custody dispute over Knut the polar bear ends; he'll remain in Berlin
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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Gianna (left foreground) watches Knut (right background) during their first meeting Tuesday.  Credit: Klaus Dietmar Gabbert / European Pressphoto Agency

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