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Friday, May 25, 2007

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Move over, Knut...

Berlin - Berlin has a new animal celebrity - a baby elephant who immediately followed his abrupt birth at the weekend with a spectacular splash in the pool.

The as-yet-unnamed male elephant was born suddenly on Sunday at the elephant enclosure in the capital's Tierpark zoo.

"It got up, walked into the pool, fell down and had to swim in deep water," zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz said on Wednesday, when the animal made his first public appearance since his birth.

"Our people pulled it out of the water right away," he added.

The zoo said the young bull was the third baby born to 26-year-old African elephant Pori, and the twelfth at the zoo since 1998.

He weighed 117.2kg at birth and had a back length of 91cm.

In reports accompanying pictures of Sunday's elephant rescue, some media portrayed the elephant as having been rejected by his mother, but the zoo said Pori and her 6-year-old daughter, Tana, were "taking exemplary care of the newborn".

"The mother nudged the baby to make it get on its feet but on the pictures it looks like she wanted to flatten it," Blaszkiewitz said.

"However, elephants always do that and they do it very carefully with their feet and their trunk."

The new arrival comes five months after the birth of a major Berlin animal star - Knut the polar bear, who was rejected by his mother and hand-raised by zookeepers at the capital's other major zoo.

So potent is Knut's appeal that zoo attendance has roughly doubled to 15 000 on average daily since his debut.

He has attracted exhaustive media attention, including his own blog and TV show, and appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair.

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