Knut lived in Berlin's zoo. He was 4 and raised by zookeepers since a cub after his mother rejected him
Now reports say the attention-loving polar bear was found dead in a pool in his cage at the Zoologischer Garten Berlin Saturday, with no immediate cause of death announced.
This is awful," said Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit said, according to the Sydney (Australia) Herald. "We had all taken him to our hearts. He was the star of the Berlin Zoo."
Most reports say Knut was alone when he died, as visitors watched him suddenly fall into the water. The celebrity news site TMZ.com carried news of his death and says People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' German branch had previously complained that his mother and other bears were tormenting Knut. And a PETA rep told TMZ that polar bears don't belong in captivity.
Knut was a celebrity, who by all accounts seemed to love the limelight. After his debut at the popular zoo, he became its star attraction, raising revenue and spawning toys, DVDs and more. He was not diagnosed as being ill at the time, reports say. An investigation into the cause of his death is underway.
Eerily, his beloved keeper, Thomas Doerflein (shown above), also died at an early age. Doerflein died at 44 in 2008 in his apartment after he had reared the cub and slept by its side, but later was told no longer to play or wrestle with Knut, who was becoming an adult polar bear and considered too dangerous to interact with closely. Doerflein reportedly suffered a heart attack. Knut acted morose after his friend's death.