Sunday, March 20, 2011

R.I.P. Knut: 12/05/2006 - 03/19/2011

I share this sad story as I remember how taken I was with Knut a few years ago. The cuddly baby polar bear first pawed his way to attention in 2006, when his mom rejected him days after his birth at the Berlin Zoo and a very kind man took care of him. In the years that followed, he inspired fan clubs and Facebook groups. He even made the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Sadly, he died unexpectedly at the Berlin Zoo Saturday, in front of hundreds of visitors.

Heiner Kloes, his keeper at the zoo said, Knut was alone in an outdoor enclosure. He shared the space with three other bears, including his mother Tosca, all of whom were inside at the time -- when he "strolled around the enclosure, went into the water, had a short spasm and died." For polar bears in the wild, the first real hurdle is birth, and some animals continue to struggle in their first year or two of life. But, at 4, Knut would have been like an 18-year-old human, Ewins said. This was a total shock and completely unexpected.

Knut's human "dad," Thomas Doerflein,44, died in 2008 of a heart attack. He named the cub and nurtured him with incredible devotion. For months he kept the little bear alive by bottle-feeding him milk before weaning him on to porridge. The keeper slept on a mattress beside little Knut and soothed him by playing Elvis Presley songs on his guitar. But as Knut grew, management at the zoo became concerned for Thomas's safety and he was banned from his enclosure. The twice-daily Thomas and Knut shows, where he playfully wrestled with the young bear, were halted, leaving Thomas and his animal chum desolate. After that, Knut howled when he caught Thomas's scent after the keeper had been ordered to stay away from him, and was declared a "psychopath" by zoologist Peter Arras because he was addicted to human attention. People don't think animals feel real emotion? Let's see, his real mom didn't want him, and his human dad was taken away. I don't know what conclusions will be drawn after his autopsy, but I'll put my money on Knut died of a broken heart...perhaps they both did. This story really breaks my heart.

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