Knut the German polar bear gets Berlin Zoo memorial
Berlin Zoo on Wednesday unveiled a bronze memorial to Knut, an uber-cute cuddly polar bear that captured hearts worldwide and devastated fans when he died from a suspected brain seizure last year.
The small sculpture, entitled “Knut The Dreamer”, shows the snowy-white bear reclining lazily on rocks in his pen at the zoo.
“Knut will stay in the hearts of many visitors, therefore this memorial will create something for future generations so that the unique nature of this animal celebrity will live on,” said the Friends of the Capital Zoos association.
Knut, who died suddenly aged four, shot to fame after being abandoned by his mother and reared by hand by a zookeeper.
When he eventually passed away, fans left flower bouquets, written tributes and photos of Knut at his former den at the zoo, while an online condolence book drew thousands of messages.
The first public appearance of “Cute Knut” attracted 100 camera crews from around the world and the cub generated millions of euros (dollars) for Berlin Zoo in lucrative merchandising and extra entrance fees.
At the height of his fame, he even appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and on German postage stamps.
But once Knut grew into a strapping adolescent and then adult, animal welfare groups began to worry that he was displaying abnormal behaviour because of all the attention.
Germany’s obsession with Knut was part of a long history of love affairs with celebrity animals.
A “psychic” octopus called Paul was cast into the global media spotlight during the 2010 soccer World Cup after correctly “predicting” the results of eight matches from his tank in Germany.