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Germany

Autopsy suggests Knut died of brain disease

The autopsy of polar bear Knut, who died at a Berlin zoo, suggests he died of brain disease. The bear became a global media sensation when he was hand-raised by zoo keepers after being rejected by his mother.

Polar bear Knut

Knut was the first polar cub in Berlin in 30 years

The post-mortem carried out on Knut the polar bear has shed light on the surprising death of Germany's best-loved animal star. Knut died of brain disease, Berlin Zoo announced on Tuesday.

The four-year-old polar bear died on Saturday when - in front of hundreds of visitors - he suddenly began turning in circles, keeled over and fell into the moat surrounding his enclosure.

Initial results from the necropsy - a term used primarily for the examination of non-human bodies - showed "significant abnormalities of the brain" while all other organs seemed intact, according to zoo authorities.

Further tests, including bacteriological examinations, will take several days. Polar bears can live up to 35 years in captivity.

Global media sensation

"Knutmania" swept Germany and the world four years ago, when a zookeeper had to feed and rear the first polar cub born in captivity at Berlin Zoo in more than 30 years.

Knut playing with a basket

The charm of baby Knut proved irresistible to the world

The number of visitors skyrocketed, and Knut even appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. The polar bear earned the zoo millions of euros and was the subject of lucrative merchandising.

Berlin Zoo has set up a special account for donations on Knut's behalf, which will be used for polar bear research and the preservation of their habitat.

It has also set up an online memorial book on its website. More than 4,000 Knut fans have already sent their condolences and memories of the cuddly white bear.

At the main entrance to Berlin Zoo and along the now empty polar bear enclosure, candles, stuffed animals, flowers and letters lined the fence.

Author: Andreas Illmer (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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