Moos’ Blog

Bio­di­ver­sity Counts!
Obser­va­tions and opin­ions con­cern­ing zoos, evo­lu­tion, nature con­ser­va­tion and the way we treat/​support the ecosys­tems which are sup­posed to serve us.


Knut, the polar bear, died in Berlin Zoo

pub­lished 25 Decem­ber 2011 | mod­i­fied 18 Decem­ber 2016

Knut, the polar bear cub that was raised by hand, has sud­denly died in Berlin Zoo, yes­ter­day — 19 March. Accord­ing to sev­eral Zoo vis­i­tors he had a seizure and dropped into the water and died, but this has not been con­firmed by the Zoo’s offi­cials. The cause of death will be estab­lished by an autopsy, which is car­ried out to date. Could it have been stress, because Knut’s com­pan­ions, all females, were not very friendly with him and behaved quite agres­sive towards him. And was this because he behaved dif­fer­ently, due to being raised by hand (his mother rejected him)? Did he became too famil­iar with human beings, and their behav­iour? There has been a huge con­tro­versy back then when he was born. Some said that such a large car­ni­vore species should never be raised by human hands and kept alive, because it was a vio­la­tion of ani­mal pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion. I pre­sume it could have dis­rupted his behav­ioural devel­op­ment too, which could have made it hard for him to adapt to polar bear behav­iour when he grew up. Oth­ers said that it would be a waste to kill the cub, because of the dire sit­u­a­tion of the polar bear as a species in the wild, and zoos’ con­tri­bu­tion to species con­ser­va­tion. And per­haps those peo­ple were also anx­ious to keep the cub alive that made them so proud, and sup­pos­edly rich? As it was the first polar bear born on their premises, in their city, since 30 years. Knut was sup­posed to take part in the Endan­gered Species breed­ing Pro­gramme of EAZA. I reckon he was nearly ready for being sent to another zoo for breed­ing pur­poses. What­ever cause there is for his death, let us hope that lessons can be learnt from his life and his death.

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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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