Polar bear Knut died of drowning, brain swelling

Fri Apr 1, 2011 9:40am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Eric Kelsey

BERLIN (Reuters) - Celebrity polar bear Knut died by drowning, the Berlin Zoo said on Friday, as thousands of outraged fans planned a demonstration on Saturday against the zoo's plan to stuff the animal. Knut, who won worldwide fame as a cute cub who defied long odds of surviving after his mother rejected him, died suddenly in front of hundreds of stunned visitors on March 19, aged four, after he fell unconscious into a pool of water at his enclosure.

The polar bear suffered from encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which caused him to collapse before he drowned, a necropsy indicated. Knut would have probably died from brain swelling if he had not drowned, officials said.

"In the end, Knut actually drowned," Achim Gruber, managing director of the animal pathology institute at Berlin's Free University, told a news conference.

He said "severe brain damage that he suffered from for quite some time" caused uncontrollable muscle spasms.

The zoo had originally said on March 22 after a preliminary investigation that Knut may have succumbed to a brain disorder. But German media later reported he may have died after an epileptic fit.

The zoo's plan to stuff the 200 kg (440 lbs.) predator for display at Berlin's Natural History Museum has been met with resistance by fans. A demonstration, "Stop the Stuffing of Knut," is planned in front of the zoo on Saturday.

Hundreds of entries on the zoo's online commemorative book urge the zoo to halt its plans to stuff Knut.

"Please don't stuff Knut. Leave him be and build him a memorial," one entry read.   Continued...

<p>Popular polar bear Knut picks out fish from his "birthday cake" made of frozen fruit and fish on his third birthday in the zoo in Berlin, December 5, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>