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Knut the polar bear

The Story

When a polar bear abandons her cub in the wild, it dies. But what should happen when a zoo bear rejects her cub? In Berlin, zookeepers went to extreme lengths in 2007 to rescue a cub they called Knut, and he's become a star attraction. But other German zoos say they'd have let him die, and animal rights activists say he'll never have a normal life. As CBC-TV's David Common reports, cute little Knut is stirring up a lot of controversy.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 23, 2007
Reporter: David Common
Duration: 2:29

Did You know?

• Born on Dec. 5, 2006, Knut and his twin were the first polar bears to be born at the Berlin Zoo in 30 years. Abandoned by their mother, Knut's twin died after just four days. Zookeeper Thomas Doerflein then devoted himself to raising Knut, bottle-feeding him sleeping next to him on a mattress in his enclosure.

• Even before he made his public debut, Knut was a star. His presence and various licensed Knut memorabilia earned the Berlin Zoo an extra $8 million.

• As he grew, Knut's popularity diminished and, according to the Toronto Star, keepers at the Berlin Zoo were divided about his future. "Knut needs to leave Berlin Zoo, the sooner the better," keeper Markus Roebke said. "He's had so much contact with humans he doesn't realize he's a polar bear. It's not healthy." But Andre Schuele, the vet responsible for Knut's care, said in 2008: "Knut is making very good progress, he's growing up just fine, he's a very healthy animal, and everything is really normal."

• Knut died suddenly in his enclosure in the Berlin Zoo in March 2011 at age four. This is unusually short; polar bears in captivity often live into their 30s. 

• On Aug. 27, 2015 researchers in Germany announced that they had discovered the cause of Knut's untimely death - he suffered from an autoimmune disease previously only seen in humans, and only discovered in 2008.  It is known as "anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis".




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