Knut, the world-famous, international celebrity polar bear from Berlin Zoo, collapsed suddenly in front of hundreds of visitors and died on Saturday. He was alone in his compound without any other bears when the tragedy struck. His keeper said, “He was not sick and we don’t know why he died.” The Mayor of Berlin, called Knut’s death, “Awful. We all loved him dearly. He was the star of Berlin Zoo.” A post mortem will be carried out on Monday to try to establish the cause of death.
Knut The fluffy, adorable, little bear rose to worldwide fame in 2006 after being hand-raised by the zookeepers in Berlin. Since then, attendance at the zoo has doubled and ‘Knutmania’ merchandise (including t-shirts, DVDs and stuffed toys) has netted Berlin Zoo thousands of Euros. However, Knut’s short life was blighted by tragedy. His mother, Tosca, rejected him and his twin brother at birth. The unnamed brother died from an infection 4 days later. Knut was kept in an incubator for the first 44 days of his life and was then looked after by zookeeper Thomas Dörflein. The pair developed an extremely close bond, as the keeper would sleep next to his crate and play, feed and bathe Knut in round-the-clock-care. Dörflein used to accompany Knut on his twice-daily, one-hour appearances in front of record crowds. Images from these sessions were beamed around the planet as Knutmania took hold of the world’s media. Knut even made the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine, in a 2007 photo shoot alongside actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. After Dörflein died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 44 in 2008, Knut was reported to be suffering from depression at the loss of his constant companion. In 2009, Knut was at the centre of a legal battle, when Berlin Zoo was sued by Neumunster Zoo. Knut’s father, Lars, had been loaned to Berlin Zoo by Neumunster on the condition that his first-born cub would be given to Neumunster. The case was settled when Berlin eventually paid Neumunster €430,000 Euros to keep their star attraction in Berlin. Experts had earlier claimed that Knut was suffering from sociological problems resulting from too much human contact. He was said to have an attenion-seeking psychological disorder, as he would cry if there was no-one near his enclosure. NB: If there is any vocabulary that you don’t understand in this article, first try to guess the meaning of a word by looking at and understanding the rest of the sentence. If you can’t make a good guess and still don’t understand the word, then read about the Knut story in an online newspaper in your native language. I am pretty sure that you will see the same vocabulary being used. Then you will realise what the word means when you have a, “Oh, so that’s what it means!” moment.