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Epilepsy killed Knut, says doctor

The Local · 27 Mar 2011, 13:19

Published: 27 Mar 2011 13:19 GMT+02:00

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Epilepsy expert Christian Elger from the University of Bonn told news magazine Focus that Knut's "typical turning movements" and his shaking leg – both seen in an internet video of the last seconds of the bear's life - were clear signs of an epileptic seizure.

The zoo refused to comment on the speculations, and said the final results of its own autopsy would be delivered on Wednesday or Thursday.

Filmed by one of hundreds of visitors who witnessed the incident, the video shows Knut losing his balance and falling into the pool in his enclosure. It could be disturbing to some people.

"I've seen similar symptoms in laboratory rats," said Elger. The professor speculated that the seizure disabled Knut's reflexes, which would have saved him from drowning.

The Berlin Zoo said in a statement Tuesday that a preliminary necropsy revealed "significant changes to the brain, which could be seen as the reason for the sudden death of the polar bear."

The zoo has come under fire in the wake of Knut's death, both for its treatment of the animal and the decision to have Knut stuffed. A death notice published by Knut fans in Saturday's edition of Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, accused the zoo director of doing little to ensure his well-being.

Addressing the dead bear directly, the fans wrote, "You deserved the life of a polar prince. Instead you were fobbed off with the cheapest measures." The zoo is accused of not giving Knut enough toys to play with and for allowing him to be bullied by the three female bears he shared his enclosure with.

Zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz had little sympathy with such notions, and called for more perspective. "I liked Knut as well," he said in an interview with the weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "But more than 20,000 people just died in Japan, and there's a war in North Africa."

He said the "humanization" of Knut had been "extreme" even while he was alive. "I've worked in zoos for 37 years, and I've never seen such attention paid to one animal."

Story continues below…


Click here for a Knut photo gallery.


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Your comments about this article

15:13 March 27, 2011 by XFYRCHIEF
Please, even though this was an animal, epileptics have seizures, not "fits." The use of the word "fit" is very insulting and demeaning to those with epilepsy.
16:22 March 27, 2011 by SunsetVa

That a city,nation, and world cared about Knut?

True, there are tragedies going on in the world, but the Zoo directors priority is the welfare of the animals.

The management at the Zoo is missing the connection Knut had with the public. It is becoming more apparent as facts are presented.

I would hope that Knut's death would bring some awareness to the animals environment and care at the Zoo.
20:27 March 27, 2011 by erkan
I personaly liked paul the octopus more , I didn´t eat Kalimari for week .
23:06 March 27, 2011 by cheeba
I find this Zoo Director's arrogance hard to swallow. When Knut made his Zoo millions of Euros in profit he never complained that the bear was too popular. The least they could have done is give him the best medical care. Other media are reporting that Knut is suspected to have inherited the disease from his father Lars. If they knew Lars had this condition one would have hoped Knut would have been tested and treated by the best Doctors for this condition. Apparently they never bothered.
03:53 March 28, 2011 by vonSchwerin
The zoo director has a point about keeping Knut's death in perspective. There are bigger tragedies in the world today.

But on the other hand, taking care of the tsunami refugees in Japan and ending the war in Libya isn't his job. Caring for the animals at the Berlin zoo is. And Knut died of disease that is treatable (in humans, at least).

As for stuffing the dead bear, the Berlin zoo ruthlessly exploited him when he was alive. Why should we be surprised that anything is different now that he is dead?
10:34 March 28, 2011 by auniquecorn
100% right vonSchwerin
10:35 March 28, 2011 by Angry Ami
Well it could be that Berliners loved this bear so much because they more than anyone else in Germany need something positive to believe in, the place is basically a drag, so when something to boost the people's morale comes along they jump on it, and nothing does that better than a cute cuddly animal like Knut.
23:35 March 28, 2011 by t-meister
i agree with vonSchwerin. Zoo officials do not work in the Reichstag (well, as of now, they don't), so their job is to take care of the animals...and check up on them. Finding out that Knut had epilepsy AFTER he died is a little too late.

especially since he was so popular (media-driven), you think a veterinarian would check.
00:02 March 29, 2011 by cheeba
This from the Fox website in the US;

"Further analysis of brain scans taken at a necropsy show Knut, 4, died after having an epileptic fit in his enclosure, according to neurologists quoted by Focus magazine.

Knut may have inherited epilepsy from his father Lars, who has epilepsy.

Lars, 17, lives at another German zoo"

So, they have known for years that Lars had epilepsy and also that it is a treatable condition that is often inherited.

Considering all the millions Knut earned this Zoo and how beloved he was all around the world, what can possibly be said in their defense, for having witheld testing and treatment?
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