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