Berlin Zoo is deeply saddened by the death of Knut, the world’s most famous polar bear. Knut died suddenly on Saturday afternoon, 19 March 2011, while being in his enclosure alone. His female companions already were in their indoor enclosure at the time. According to the Dutch website InfoNu.nl several Berlin Zoo visitors watched Knut having what looked like a seizure, after which he dropped into the water and died.
Knut was born on 5 December 2006 in Berlin Zoo. His litter mate died after a few days and Knut was disowned by his mother. He was taken care of by zoo keeper Thomas Durflein, who himself died in 2008 by heart failure. A heated discussion arose in Germany whether raising a carnivore like Knut by hand was acceptable or not,when animal rights activist Frank Albrecht stated that the zoo was violating animal protection legislation by keeping him alive. He was supported by the director of the Aachen Zoo, who said that the zookeepers “should have had the courage to let the bear die” after it was rejected, arguing that the bear will “die a little” every time it is separated from its caretaker. So, the discussion was whether the polar bear cub should be allowed to live or not. Perhaps, because of this controversy Knut became a hype in Germany and neighbouring countries. “This bear has not only charmed the people in Berlin, but captured the hearts of many people all over the world ” said the chairman of the Berlin Zoo, Frank Bruckmann, the day after Knut was found dead.
An autopsy is carried out immediately, and as a precaution the outdoor polar bear enclosure remains empty until the cause of death has been established.
As of today a book of condolence has been opened on the Zoo’s website for people to share their condolences. Starting Monday there will be a special bank account opened where donations can be made to support polar bear research and the conservation of polar bear habitat. Details will be announced later. (Source: website Berlin Zoo, 20.03.2011; website InfoNu.nl; Wikipedia)
The preliminary results of the autopsy show distinctive anomalies of Knut’s brain, which could be the cause of the seizure (see amateur video below), leading to the death of the polar bear. No other pathological lesions were found. Further examinations (bacteriology, histology) will be performed and require a few more days. Berlin Zoo will report on the final results as soon as these results are available. (Source: website Berlin Zoo, 22.03.2011)
Footage of Knut having a lethal seizure; Please beware, this film contains shocking pictures