• Germany's news in English
 
Polar bear's death brings tears and criticism
Photo: DPA

Polar bear's death brings tears and criticism

Published: 20 Mar 2011 11:48 GMT+01:00

Early Sunday morning, people were already gathering at Berlin's Zoologischer Garten to say good-bye to Knut, the world-famous polar bear who shot to global fame in 2007 and even made the cover of Vanity Fair.

They left flowers and placed lit candles outside the zoo's gates, accompanied by messages such as: "We loved you soooooo much!" and "Bye-bye Knut!"

"I am deeply shocked," said Gabriele Thöne, the zoo's business director. "It's like a friend has left us."

Knut, pulled dead from a pool in the enclosure he shared with three females on Saturday afternoon, was just four years and three months old, well below the average life expectancy for polar bears of around 35.

The cause of his untimely death was not immediately known, said Heiner Klös, in charge of bears at the zoo. Veterinarians were due to conduct an autopsy on Monday.

The BZdaily quoted zoo visitors as saying that Knut was sitting on rocks in his enclosure when his left leg began to shake. He then started walking around in circles before falling into the water.

Zoo workers then erected a screen around the enclosure while Knut was fished out.

The shock could be seen on visitors' faces yesterday, with many in tears. Parents found themselves having to improvise explanations for questioning children, with variations ranging from "Knut's gone on vacation" to "Knut is sleeping and doesn't want to be bothered" to "Knut's gone to polar bear heaven."

Photobucket

Click here for a Knut photo gallery.

"I am so sad," said Sabine, a frequent guest at the zoo who couldn't hold the tears back.

Soon afterwards the zoo was closed for the day.

Thousands of people around the globe expressed their sadness on Twitter and Facebook about the bear's passing.

But animal-rights group PETA has responded to Knut's death angrily, leveled fierce criticism against zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz and bear keeper Klös.

PETA said putting Knut in an enclosure with three older female polar bears was stressful for him. The fact that he was raised by hand, by a human keeper, and developed a general orientation toward people, rather than his fellow bears, was unnatural and lead to behavioral problems, the organization said.

"Nature has now taken its revenge and spared Knut from the significant torments of captivity," said animal-rights activist Frank Albrecht, who has criticized Knut's upbringing in the past.

Wolfgang Apel, head of the German animal protection association, said the death should be a lesson.

"Knut's short and distressful life shows us again that polar bears do not belong in zoos, even if they are called Knut," he said.

DPA/DAPD/AFP/kdj

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

13:28 March 20, 2011 by yhsanjay
A sad loss. The bear was much loved by one and all, especially by children.Whats a bit disturbing is that the bear had to die at age four plus years!

I hope the zoo people are more careful and learn lessons from such past mistakes.
15:10 March 20, 2011 by catjones
Sounds like a stroke. Normal lifespan should be 15+ years.
18:49 March 20, 2011 by JAMessersmith
This was a bear that was rejected by his mother. In many cases, when an animal refuses to care for one of its offspring, there is usually something physically wrong with the baby. Knut's mother probably knew instinctively that he wasn't going to survive for long, which is why she didn't waste any of her milk on him. Sounds harsh, but that's the animal kingdom for you.
19:57 March 20, 2011 by goldilocks2
To all you detractors, what's wrong with a second chance at life if your birth mother rejects you? Nothing, as I see it. However, people (especially trained zookeepers & the powers that be) given what they believe to be true about rejected animals at birth should have known enough to not subject the poor creature to aggressive other animals even of their own species. It would seem that with Knut's observed circumstantial stresses, closer supervision & timley preventative action would have been in order. He may very well have lived to a ripe old age instead of being repeatedly subjected to the other bears reported aggressiveness. How very sad Knut's handler died so early...poor Knut's decline may have in part stemmed from a broken spirt of loneliness & isolation. I am truly saddened & will be anxiously awaiting further news...
20:40 March 20, 2011 by dcgi
So it wasn't due to pea-soup inhalation(?)
20:47 March 20, 2011 by JAMessersmith
@goldilocks2

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with raising an animal rejected by its mother (in fact, my very own cat was a rejected runt). All I'm saying is that rejected animals oftentimes don't survive very long. Of course, there are exceptions, but that is a general rule.

In the case of my cat, he was either born in the bushes outside my house, or carried there by his mother (which is probably the case, since he was there by himself). For two days I tried to catch him, but couldn't because he was too fast. However, on the third day I had left my front door open and he decided to walk inside on his own accord. By that point he was pretty close to death, and was covered in mud, so I cleaned him off and rushed him to the vet. I spent tons of money getting him all fixed up. He had a severe eye and ear infection, was badly malnourished, and needed surgery on his mouth. Now he's 6 years old and is perfectly healthy. However, he is still very small for a cat of his age. You can definitely tell he was a runt. Don't know how that will affect his health in the future, but for now he's doing great.
21:19 March 20, 2011 by goldilocks2
I thought that the rejection would occur sooner after birth. Nothing wrong with "runts". They are usually very cute & just need an extra boost in the beginning. Have to consider that Mother Nature may make errors in judgment...maybe Mom had "forgotten" where your kitten was or was unable to get back for him. Maybe another animal (squirrel ?) carried him off. Glad to hear of your success. I have 3 cats...one a former stray that "found" me. He is a diabetic for a couple of years now with some degree of kidney failure. But, with proper med. & food is doing great also.
23:49 March 20, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
Thank you to the Berlin Zoologischer Garten for saving and giving us the years of Knut we did have. No one knows when they have a child how long they will be with us, but we are better for knowing and loving them. How can a man love something he has never known? Through Knut and his life we have come to love Polar Bears better than before. How do the animal rights folk know that we are not part of the system - that our part in nature is not to use our minds for the care of the physical universe? To attribute anthropomorphic sensibilities to blind "Nature" will lead us back to worshipping senseless rocks and trees...

Thanks again to the Berlin Zoologischer Garten: you did the right thing. I still have a picture of Knut and Giovanna so happily together...such things are simply good.
11:59 March 21, 2011 by Angry Ami
Firstly RIP Knut, he was a one off, but the same personality

(if you can use that word to describe an animal) that made him so cute and lovable to we humans was probably his undoing for any kind of normal relationship with other polar-bears, as we saw when he had his 1st encounter with Gena or whatever she was called, the poor guy couldn't handle it, and then he's put in with 3 aggressive female PB's, including his mama, think the stress was just too much for him, witnesses said his left leg was shaking just before he jumped into the water, which is one possible sign of a stroke or a heart attack, both of which can occur when one is put under too much stress, damn shame :-(
14:09 March 21, 2011 by moistvelvet
FREEDOM - Knut is free at last!! Why didn't the parents just tell their kids the truth.
Today's headlines
Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is having an excellent month. Photo: DPA

Tax take jumps 7.3 percent in November

Germany collected 7.3 percent more in tax in November 2014 than the same month last year thanks to the strengthening economy, the Finance Ministry said in its monthly report on Thursday, while pollsters found rising consumer confidence. READ  

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting
Bodo Ramelow looking low on energy at a sitting of the Thuringia state parliament. Photo: DPA

Ramelow bunks off his first Bundesrat sitting

Controversial new Thuringia minister-president Bodo Ramelow of the Left (Linke) party missed his first session of Germany's second house of parliament, the Bundesrat, to go on holiday with his family. READ  

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP
Edathy preparing to face questions in Berlin Photo: DPA

'Wrong but legal' claims child porn case ex-MP

A former rising star of German politics who resigned after pictures of naked children were allegedly found on his official laptop said Thursday what he did was "wrong, but legal." READ  

This week in history
A Brandt name to relaunch a country
Willy Brandt being sworn into office in 1972 Photo: DPA

A Brandt name to relaunch a country

We know him as Willy Brandt - but that was just a pseudonym the former chancellor took to avoid the Nazis. READ  

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find
A similar bomb defused in Potsdam in September 2013. Photo: DPA

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find

Local authorities evacuated some 10,000 people from central Potsdam after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found on a building site. READ  

Sunny outlook for business this winter
Photo: DPA

Sunny outlook for business this winter

German business confidence rose in December on the back of falling oil prices and a weak euro, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier. READ  

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence
Photo: DPA

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence

Germany and Dortmund football star Marco Reus was hit by a €540,000 fine Thursday, after state prosecutors in Dortmund confirmed he has been driving for years without a licence. READ  

British and German troops relive Xmas truce
Soldiers in World War One period uniforms watch the football match. Photo: DPA

British and German troops relive Xmas truce

Teams from the British and German armies played a friendly football game in Aldershot on Wednesday in memory of the Christmas truce of 1914. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,194
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd