Image: Knut celebrates 4 years at the Berlin Zoo from Berliner Zoo, Authorized for Press Use Only
Daniel broke the news that Knut the Polar Bear died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday (19 March 2011), aged only four years, at the Berlin Zoo. As all the followers of "Knutmania" worldwide mourn with Berlin, we look back at Knut's life, and remember the good times we shared watching the tiny polar bear grow into an iconic representative of an endangered species. Join us for a photographic journey through the four short years in which Knut brought joy to the hearts of so many polar bear lovers, and provoked debate in the animal-loving community.
Image: Knut with Thomas Dorflein from Berliner Zoo, Authorized for Press Use Only
Knut was born 5 December 2006. He and his brother were rejected by their mother. His brother survived only a few days, but Knut lived thanks to the dedication of Thomas Dorflein, the bear keeper who camped out at the zoo to feed the young polar bear every two hours.
Knut won the hearts of all Berliners, and conquered the world media in an almost audible chorus of "aawwwws." Knut became a star, drawing a record number of visitors to the Berlin zoo after he was dubbed "cute Knut" by Tom Cruise. Thomas Dorflein became a celebrity on the coattails of his prodigy. Knut died much like he lived, in front of a crowd of hundreds of people.
One of Knut's keepers, Heiner Kloes, told the Associated Press that Knut waded into the water in his enclosure, suffered a brief spasm, and died. A crowd of between 600 to 700 people witnessed the sad event, an indicator of the popularity Knut enjoyed.
Image: Knut's Cutest Pose from Berliner Zoo, Authorized for Press Use Only
Knut was so popular that Berlin paid about €430,000 (US$600,000) to the Neumunster zoo to settle a dispute; as the owner of Knut's father, Neumunster should have been entitled to the first-born offspring. Berliners felt entitled to keep their Knut, as he would not have been alive to go back to Neumunster without Dorflein's sacrifice to nurse the bear into adulthood.
We watched the polar white ball of fluff grow into one-year old Knut, no longer so cute but handsome in a scary, polar bear killling machine way. We shared in the debate about whether a wild animal such as a polar bear should be raised by humans, or left to die.
Knut's fate strangely echoes the death of Thomas Dorflein, who was found dead of a heart attack at the age of 44. Both icons of the strange bond between man and nature will be missed.
More on Knut the Polar Bear:
What Killed Knut? Autopsy Results Released
Lonely Man Leaps Into Polar Bear Cage Because "He Looked Lonely"
Bride of Knut? A Lesson for Survival of Species
Knut: A Great Book for Kids
Polar Bear Lovers Mourn Death of the Man Who Saved Knut
Knut, Cute Pose