Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World by Juliana HatkoffFrom the bestselling author of Owen & Mzee, a picture book about Knut, the adorable polar bear cub whos captured hearts around the world.
When Knut was born, the first polar bear cub at the Berlin Zoo in more than thirty years, he was no bigger than a snowball and unable to care for himself. His mother, a rescued East German circus bear, didnt know how to take care of Knut and rejected him. Knut would have died if it werent for Thomas Dorflein, a zookeeper who nurtured Knut, feeding him, sleeping with him, and giving him the love and attention Knut needed to thrive. But Thomas wasnt the only one who adopted Knut. The adorable little polar bear captured the worlds attention, and now Knut is loved around the globe.
Scientists solve the mystery of Knut the polar bear's death
Why Knut the Polar Bear Died So Suddenly
Rejected by his mother at birth, he was raised by zookeepers. He was the first polar bear cub to survive past infancy at the Berlin Zoo in more than 30 years. At one time the subject of international controversy, he became a tourist attraction and commercial success. Children protested outside the zoo, and e-mails and letters expressing sympathy for the cub's life were sent from around the world. Knut became the center of a mass media phenomenon dubbed "Knutmania" that spanned the globe and spawned toys, media specials, DVDs, and books. Attendance figures for the year increased by an estimated 30 percent, making it the most profitable year in its year history. On 19 March , Knut unexpectedly died at the age of four.
The documentaries that showed him strumming Elvis's " You're The Devil in Disguise" on a guitar as he lulled the world's most famous polar bear to sleep were enough to win the hearts of millions of Germans. Reports suggested the cause was cancer or a heart attack, but ruled out suicide. It emerged that it wasn't only the bear who had been receiving bucketloads of fan mail. According to reports yesterday, in the past few weeks the keeper had been fending off groupies every time he left the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Daniela. Berlin was in mourning yesterday following the news of the keeper's death. Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's mayor, said the city had lost an important symbol.
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Spinning in circles, Knut appeared to be losing control of one of his back legs, which was shaking wildly. Moments later, the pound bear collapsed backwards, falling into the pool in his enclosure. Visitors watched in confused horror as Knut drowned. Captive polar bears can live into their 30s, and Knut was just four years old. The bear previously seemed to have been in good health, but an autopsy revealed that his brain had been severely altered just before he died, pointing to a seizure caused by encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain.
He spawned millions of fuzzy toys, garnered media attention on everything from his cod-liver diet to his lack of mates and even inspired his own song before his untimely death in He was Knut the polar bear , the star of the Berlin Zoo. It turns out that Knut was killed by an autoimmune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a kind of brain inflammation. Past work implicated encephalitis in his death, but hinted that a virus or bacteria was to blame. The new discovery suggests that a disease previously identified only in humans could be a leading cause of encephalitis deaths in other animals , study co-author Alex Greenwood, a veterinary physiologist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, said in a press briefing. The twists and turns of Knut's life captured the popular imagination.
Knut the polar bear, rejected by his mother and raised by zookeepers, became an international celebrity after his unfortunate beginnings. He was the first polar bear cub to survive at the Berlin Zoo in more than 30 years, and the fluffy bear was happy to frolic with humans, particularly when rewarded with his favorite treat, croissants. Sadly, Knut died at only four years old after an encephalitic seizure, the first known case of such a disease appearing in a non-human. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of Atlas Obscura in your inbox. Follow us on Twitter to get the latest on the world's hidden wonders.