When I think about the Berlin Zoo, one thing comes to my mind: the polar bear called Knut. In December 2006, Knut was a polar bear born in the Berlin Zoo that became so popular that his presence increased zoo attendance by 30%. Yeah, everybody loved Knut, but he is no longer with us. His sad story is one of the reasons why I believe the documentary Knut and Friends is something that every animal lover should watch.
Knut and Friends tells the story of Knut, the famous polar bear from the Berlin Zoo, and shows his early life in contrast with other polar bears born in the Arctic and brown bears from the forests of Belarus.
Knut wasn’t born alone; he came to the world with a brother who died a couple of days later. But he was left alone after his mother, Tosca, abandoned him. She was a former circus bear, and people believed she felt something was wrong with him. She was right, somehow.
In Knut and Friends, you will see his relationship with his caretaker, Thomas Dörflein. Thomas lived in Knut’s cage to give the bear everything, including food every two hours made from cod liver oil, cat food, baby formula, and many particular vitamins that bears need.
All this care worked out well, and Knut became a media celebrity when he was first presented to the public in March 2007. He was so famous and popular that the Berlin Zoo reported an increase in attendance of 30% just because of the baby polar bear.
But this is not a happy story. Knut died in March 2011 when he was just four years old. And he died strangely. He suffered a seizure and drowned after falling into the water of his enclosure—all of this in front of hundreds of zoo visitors who were completely in shock.
A few years later, in 2014, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin published an extensive investigation into Knut’s death. This document reports that the cause of death was an acute brain inflammation resulting from an unknown virus infection. This is how Knut died.
And, to make things even worse, his caretaker didn’t live long as well. Thomas Dörflein died in 2008 after being sick for some time.
Knut’s main picture here comes from By Jensk369 — via Wikimedia Commons.