Celebrity bear Knut dies suddenly at the Berlin Zoo

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Knut at his debut at the Berlin Zoo in 2007

Berlin zoo's celebrity polar bear named Knut died suddenly in his compound at the Berlin Zoo yesterday. No immediate cause of death was given. Knut has been featured on magazine covers and merchandise, and doubled the attendance at the zoo, according to Zoo officials.

One of the bear keepers at the zoo, Heiner Kloes, said: "It was a completely normal day. He was with the female bears before, who had just been shut away. Then Knut strolled around the enclosure, went into the water, had a short spasm and died."

Knut was four years old. In the wild polar bears have a life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years, while in captivity they can live longer. An autopsy is expected to be performed.

Knut was born in captivity and was raised by humans after his mother rejected him. He first drew attention when caregiver, Thomas Dörflein, temporarily lived at the zoo to be able to give the cub his bottle every two hours. Knut made daily public appearances in which his caregiver cuddled and played with the cub to the pleasure of thousands of visitors. Around the world fan clubs formed, including in the United States, Japan, and Germany. Fans were interested in all aspects of his life, including his battle with gaining weight and plans to relocate to a different zoo.

Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz shot a 2007 Vanity Fair cover featuring Knut with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Knut was a money maker for the Berlin Zoo through the sales of various merchandise including photos, key chains, food items, and stuffed likenesses.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit called the death of Knut "awful".


Wikipedia has more about this subject: