Germany’s most famous polar bear, Knut, died unexpectedly in his enclosure in the Berlin Zoological Garden over the weekend. Bear keeper Heiner Kloes told the Associated Press that Knut was not sick and his sudden death is a mystery. A necropsy will be performed today to determine the cause of death. The average lifespan for a captive polar bear is 30 years. Knut was 4 years old.
Knut became a celebrity and star attraction when he was born in captivity on December 5, 2006. He had been rejected by his mother at birth and was hand-raised by zookeepers. After he was presented to the public 15 weeks later, the resulting “Knutmania” brought in what is thought to be millions of euros in merchandising and revenue for the zoo. He even had his photo taken alongside Leonardo DiCaprio by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.
Approximately 600 to 700 people were watching Knut in his enclosure at the zoo Saturday afternoon when he suddenly began to experience what appeared to be a massive seizure. He spun in circles, began convulsing, fell down and tumbled into the water, where he was found dead. Video of the death had circulated on the Internet.
Thousand of visitors have been gathering at the compound to leave flowers, notes, stuffed Knut toys and candles.