Image: Knut and Gianna playing in the snow, by Martin Teschner, Flickr/CC By-ND
After the sudden death of polar bear favorite Knut on Saturday, the Berlin Zoo has come under accusations that stress killed Knut -- stress due to a broken heart, mobbing by zoomates, or simply from captivity. The bear known as "cute Knut" enjoyed friendly play with polar bear Gianna in the photo above. But Gianna had to go home to Munich, and as the zoo moved three older polar bear females in with Knut, accusations began to fly that Knut -- more accustomed to humans than bears -- was being "mobbed" by the bears Nancy, Tosca, and Katjuscha. Some animal activists have been quoted sounding almost thrilled that Knut's death could support their platform against keeping wild animals accustomed to roaming widely in zoos. Now the results of the autopsy have been released, but it seems that will not stop the controversy.
>> WATCH SLIDESHOW: Complexity of Polar Bears Revealed in 10 Rare VideosKnut Suffered Brain Damage
In the light of a new study which finds more bears opting for the single life, perhaps Knut fans were right that Knut was more aggravated than adored by his aggressive zoomates. But that was not the cause of Knut's death.
The four-year-old polar bear should have lived another decade. The autopsy findings show that Knut suffered from brain damage, which most probably caused an epileptic attack in the bear pond, leading to Knut's death by drowning. Doctors responsible for the autopsy after Knut's unexpected death found no indications of illness in any other organ. Testing on Knut's bodily fluids to further confirm the findings is ongoing.
Knut Controversy Continues
Brain damage findings will not let the Zoo completely off the hook though. Accusations from animal activists continue. A Nürtinger activist, Frank Albrecht, who previously advocated killing Knut in a debate over whether animals rejected by their mothers should be saved by humans, claims that "incest" in the breeding of bears is responsible.
Berlin carnivore keeper Heiner Klös, rejects Albrecht's public suggestion that Knut's ancestors suffered from epilepsy as "idle talk." Certainly, medicines could have extended Knut's life if keepers had suspected epilepsy. But as the Senate appointed person responsible for animal protection, Klaus Lüdcke, asks the Tagesspiegel, "who conducts preventive diagnoses on polar bears?" Lüdcke would like to see an end to the keeping of polar bears in zoos.
Image: Knut the Polar Bear Waving Goodbye from Berliner Zoo, Authorized for Press Use Only
Knut's remains will be stuffed and put on display in the Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History) in Berlin, which has stirred mixed emotions among Knut fans, who want to see their favorite bear rest in peace.
The Berlin Zoo has set up a website where people can share their memories of Knut: Knut Gedenkbuch. As of noon today, the zoo has realized that not everyone understands "neuen Eintrag erstellen" and has added a translation "post new item," which we suspect will improve the ratio of foreign to german entries. The polar bear famous for waving to his admirers will be missed by those who saw him in Berlin and those who followed his antics in the news worldwide.