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Knut to be skinned, plasticized by 'Dr Death'

The Local · 1 Apr 2011, 07:00

Published: 01 Apr 2011 07:00 GMT+02:00

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In a move that will be certain to outrage Knut’s legions of fans and animal rights activists, von Hagens will subject the famous bear, who died two weeks ago, to his controversial “plastination” preservation process.

Knut’s body parts will be coated with a synthetic resin, laying bare the naked muscles, nerves and tendons underneath.

He will initially be put on display at Berlin's Natural History Museum, though zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz said an international tour was possible. Knut’s hide and fur will be stuffed and mounted on a metal frame to stand alongside the plastinated interior.


Click here for a Knut photo gallery.

Blaszkiewitz defended the project as “educational.” If Knut-lovers were upset by the idea of seeing the bear’s raw muscle and sinew, they simply should not go to the exhibition, he said.

“Children in particular will learn a lot about the actual anatomy of a polar bear,” Blaszkiewitz said.

“It is also a powerful, ironic statement about global warming, which is affecting polar bears more than most species. If climate change continues at its present ferocious pace, polar bears might really have to ‘take their coats off,’” he said.

The four-year-old polar bear’s death in his enclosure at the zoo sparked worldwide outpourings of grief last month. The autopsy report on the precise cause of his death has not yet been released, but preliminary tests revealed he probably had a condition causing fluid to form on his brain.

Knut-lovers were appalled by the plastination plan, slamming it as disrespectful and exploitative.

Click here for a gallery of a Body Worlds zoo exhibition in Germany.

“It’s sick,” said Friends of Knut (International) chairwoman Dagmar Saugut. “What more can I say? It’s grotesque. Do they really want to let children see this? My children would have nightmares for weeks.”

The group would picket any such display of Knut’s body, she vowed.

Knut became a global media sensation as a cub after being rejected by his mother and reared by hand. Von Hagens acknowledged that his latest project would be his most controversial yet.

“I find it interesting that people get more upset about animals than human beings,” he said. “If I announced that I was going to plastinate a victim of the Japanese tsunami it would make less of a fuss.”

He added that he was also interested in plastinating the body of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, should it become available.

The plastination process allows for sections to be cut out, revealing a cross-section view of certain body parts, such as the brain. Von Hagens said that depending on the outcome of the post-mortem, he might cut a section out of Knut’s skull to show any brain abnormalities that might be there.

Story continues below…

“It’s already been cut open by the pathologist performing the autopsy,” he said. “All we’d be doing is covering it with resin and putting it on display.”

Body Worlds, which is von Hagens’ travelling exhibition, normally states that it is recommended for children 10 years and older, which could alienate some of Knut's more youthful fans.

Von Hagens has worked on animals before. Last year he brought an anatomical exhibition to the Neunkirchen Zoo in the state of Saarland that featured plastinated animals including an elephant, a brown bear, a squid, a giraffe, a leopard, a gorilla and other exotic creatures.

See a gallery of von Hagens with the cross sections.

APRIL FOOLS! This story is entirely fabricated and published in The Local's long-standing April Fools' Day tradition.

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Your comments about this article

09:16 April 1, 2011 by majura
It's 'plasticised'.
09:47 April 1, 2011 by wood artist
Nice try, guys. I expected something, and this one wasn't too hard to identify. None the less, thanks for playing the game well.

11:37 April 1, 2011 by auniquecorn
Got me on that one, I felt my blood pressure rising while reading this,
15:00 April 1, 2011 by Krim
Some do not miss any opportunity to be on the headlines or to make money. pictures and movies of Knut are available. Leave the creature in peace.
17:29 April 1, 2011 by Englishted
09:16 April 1, 2011 by majura

It's 'plasticised'.

What is?
01:21 April 2, 2011 by JAMessersmith
Firstly, the bear is dead. It can't feel any disrespect. Secondly, bears aren't human. There is no polar bear religion, nor are there any taboos surrounding death in polar bear world. That's why they don't think twice about eating their prey alive. So it is childish to project human emotions on a vicious arctic predator, and then claim that there is something depraved about turning a bear carcass into a scientific display.

How do you think people learn about biology? Animal corpses are dissected all the time by students around the world. At least plastination preserves the dissection for years to come. Most animal carcasses are thrown to the trash heap after their classroom purposes are expended. And if your child would be traumatized by seeing the inner workings of bear biology, they shouldn't become a biologist or a veterinarian, let alone an undertaker, or a doctor, or a surgeon who has to deal with human biology.

Consider that if this bear had died in the wild his body would be left to slowly rot on the tundra. So if you're going to personify him, you should be glad he's getting the Pharaoh treatment.
06:27 April 3, 2011 by vonSchwerin
Good thing this was a fake news story!

I was thinking, "This whole Knut story just keeps getting more and more messed up."
02:06 April 4, 2011 by cheeba
This must be an April fools joke since it was published on April 1. If not these people should be arrested.
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