Knut, the biggest ever celebrity of the Berlin Zoo (Zoologischer Garten Berlin), the first polar bear to be born and survive at their premises in 30 years, died on 19 March 2011. He was 4 years old.
He was at the centre of a storm from the very moment of his birth. He was rejected along with his twin (who died soon after birth) by his mother (Tosca), a traumatised rescued animal herself, and hand-reared by his keeper Thomas Doerflein. Apparently rejected cubs are usually killed and cannibalised by their mothers. Knut’s plight provoked widespread ethical debate on whether it was right to rescue him at all.
A massive campaign was launched demanding that he be allowed to live. The publicity spawned a whole memorabilia industry.
Bizarrely, Knut was the target of a death threat as well, prompting heightened security for him.
Click here for more information about Knut. There is a picture gallery, and a cute video as well.
We were lucky to get a chance to see Knut in August 2007. He was far from a tiny white cuddly furry ball when we laid eyes on him.
He seemed quite at ease as cameras clicked and flashlights popped. He actually seemed to enjoy all the fuss as he swam back and forth, pausing every now and then to play with a twig, or to just bask in the sunlight, or in the collective admiration of his enthusiastic fans.
Knut was one of the highlights of our Berlin visit, and it saddens me greatly to hear of his death.