Knut the world-famous polar bear died suddenly last Saturday in his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo. According to reports the four year old polar bear had a spasm while swimming and perished in front of 600 horrified onlookers.
The cause of death is unknown and zoo officials plan to carry out an autopsy on the bear today.
The first polar bear born at the Berlin Zoo in thirty years, Knut was rejected by his mother at birth, along with his twin brother, who died two days later. Knut was hand raised by zoo keeper Thomas Doerflein who camped out at the zoo and fed Knut a bottle every two hours.
The story of the adorable, orphaned polar bear captured the public’s attention and Knut became a media sensation. When Knut was first displayed to the public, attendance at the zoo doubled as the public clamored to get a glimpse of the adorable cub, the only polar bear ever to be raised by humans.
“Knutmania” included a boatload of merchandise and an appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair along with Leonardo DiCaprio shot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Knut’s trainer, Doerflein died of a heart attack in 2008 at age 44.
Fans flocked to the Berlin Zoo after the news of Knut’s death to leave cards, flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial.
Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/josepha