Together with Leonardo DiCaprio, he appears on the cover of Vanity Fair's current May issue, with pictures taken by star photographer Annie Leibovitz. He has the cover of the German edition all to himself.

 

Zoo officials say attendance has roughly doubled on average since Knut came along.

 

Merchandising frenzy

 

"Obviously, his innocent, babylike looks are an important reason," said Peter Walschburger, a psychologist at the Free University in Berlin, saying that Knut's white fur and soft, round features made people want to protect him.

 

Knut won't be too 'cuddly' when
he is fully grown [AFP]

The merchandising frenzy now includes a special collection by German toy maker Steiff. Since January, the company has been selling 800 Knut bears every day, said sales director Gerald Uhlich.

 

The stuffed animals come in three sizes and cost from $26.60 to $40. Steiff has a license deal with the zoo and will invest part of its profit in projects there.

 

Haribo, the German candy company that makes gummi bears, has created a white, marshmallow-like Knut candy that will hit grocery stores across Germany and Austria next week. The candymaker also will contribute part of its proceeds to the zoo.

 

Knut-candy

 

"Our Knut candies have raspberry flavor and are sold in boxes of 150 pieces or over the counter for five cents each," Marco Alster, a Haribo spokesman, said on Thursday.

 

Knut even has his own blog in German, English and Spanish - written by a journalist at the regional public broadcaster, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg.

 

The Knut marketing phenomenon has also had a dramatic impact on the Berlin Zoo's stock. The shares, which had hovered around the $2,680 over recent years, shot up as high as $6,400 this week.

 

By Thursday, however, the 4,000 shares, publicly traded on the local Berlin-Bremen Stock Exchange, had settled back to $4,960.

 

The boom may run its course in the next few months: Unlike his stuffed replicas, cute Knut will soon grow up - into a huge and much less cuddly adult.