Knut the bear′s mysterious death solved | News | DW | 27.08.2015
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Knut the bear's mysterious death solved

Scientists have discovered what caused Berlin's beloved polar bear Knut to drown in his enclosure. The cub was the star of the zoo during his brief life from 2006 to 2011.

Animal research scientists announced on Thursday that they had finally solved the death of the Berlin Zoological Garden's most famous resident - beloved polar bear cub Knut, whose fame has outlasted his untimely death in 2011.

Born in December 2006, Knut was abandoned by his mother and lost his twin a few days later. He was raised by hand by zookeeper Thomas Dörflein, who himself died in 2008. After capturing the attention of news crews and crowds of adoring fans, as well as bringing the zoo millions in revenue, Knut died at the mere age of four. The polar bear drowned in the pool in his enclosure in front of hundreds of shocked visitors.

"Everyone remembers how he was born, how he was presented to the public, how he lived and then the movement of death, and now... there is some closure. We can actually say this is why he died," said Alex Greenwood of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, who co-authored the study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study says that Knut was the first known case of an animal dying from NMDAR encephalitis, an auto-immune disease that causes inflammation of the brain. Knut suffered a seizure after the disease caused antibodies in his brain to attack his own body, leading him to drown.

The disease, only discovered in 2007, affects about one in 200,000 humans each year, mostly young women. It can cause high fevers, hallucinations, and epileptic seizures when left untreated.

es/jil (AP, AFP)

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