Has Knut, the polar bear babe rejected by its mother at the Berlin Zoo and who is 4 months old today, usurped Butterstick‘s title as international bear of choice?

The “ice bear,” as the zoo’s translated Web site calls him, gets the May Vanity Fair cover shot by Annie Liebovitz! Sure, he’s included because of the implications of global warming, but my loyalty to Tai Shan tells me that it’s ageist. And Knut is lacking technologically—-he may have a blog (only in German), but it’s no Panda Cam.

The National Zoo is, after all, really interested in giving us total access, and, as it happens, TMI. (Fortunately, they have a sense of humor.) For example, their Web site reports on Butterstick’s mom Mei Xiang’s cycle:

Analysis of hormones in her urine as well as vaginal cytology studies confirmed that Mei is in early estrus (also called “periestrus”). On Monday afternoon, we became aware that Mei’s estrus was imminent, based on Tian’s increased intensity and persistence in interacting with Mei. Tian was very interested in approaching Mei’s rear, as well as in standing on her back in some rather haphazard mounts. Mei was not at all pleased with this special attention! She swatted him several times and ran away from him.

Even if Butterstick will grow up not knowing how to have sex, at least, as a friend pointed out to me, he won’t maul baby seals.