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R.I.P. Knut: Remembering the famous Berlin Zoo polar bear's life in photos

Knut the polar bear

Knut, the polar bear whose famously cute visage landed him a Vanity Fair cover and earned him legions of fans back when he was a cub in 2006 and 2007, died over the weekend of unknown causes. The celebrity bear, who was 4, died in his outdoor enclosure at the Berlin Zoo.

Zoo staffers are anxious to determine the cause of Knut's early death, considered extremely unusual for a species that can live up to 20 years in the wild and even longer in captivity. Knut had not appeared sick before his death and he was visible to 600 or 700 people gathered around the zoo's polar bear enclosure at the time of his death on Saturday.

Although it's hard to believe this beloved bear -- frozen in so many fans' memories as an energetic, full-of-life cub -- is gone, we had to smile when looking back over some of his earliest photos. Beginning in early 2007, not long after his birth, they showcase his first months in the spotlight and the special relationship he shared with his late keeper, Thomas Doerflein, who died in 2008.

We've assembled some of our favorite photos of Knut, ranging from his first year all the way to his fourth birthday last December, concluding with images of the makeshift memorial that sprang up at the Berlin Zoo over the weekend as Knut's many fans arrived to pay their respects. (For fans who live a long way from Berlin, the zoo has also set up an online memorial book for Knut.)

Above, Knut is shown at 2 months of age on Feb. 11, 2007. See more photos after the jump! (Photo credit: Peter Griesback / European Pressphoto Agency)

Knut the polar bear Knut the polar bear

Above left, Knut does the waving move that came to be a signature gesture for him during his public debut on March 23, 2007, when he was 3 months old. Above right, Knut at about six weeks of age in January 2007. (Above left: Herbert Knosowski / Associated Press; above right: Reuters.)

Knut the polar bear

Baby Knut could make anything into a toy. He's shown here at the Berlin Zoo on March 2, 2007. (Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

On March 23, 2007, a 3-month-old Knut lays next to keeper Doerflein during the cub's first public appearance at the Berlin Zoo. (Wolfgang Kumm / European Pressphoto Agency)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays with a blanket in a series of photos taken on March 23, 2007. (Associated Press)

Knut the polar bear

Knut is reflected in the water of his outdoor enclosure on March 23, 2007. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear

Knut sticks close to Doerflein during his first public appearance. (Herbert Knosowski / Associated Press)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays outside at the Berlin Zoo in a series of photos from March 2007. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear

Knut faces the camera on March 23, 2007. (Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear

Knut sits on Doerflein's lap in his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo. (Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear Knut the polar bear

Knut walks toward the camera, left, and drinks water, right, during his first public appearance. (Left photo: Markus Schreiber / Associated Press; right photo: Michael Sohn / Associated Press)

Knut the polar bear

Zoo visitors clamor to get a good view of Knut on March 24, 2007, just one day after he debuted to the public at the Berlin Zoo. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays with a boot in his enclosure on March 30, 2007. (John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut explores his enclosure on April 3, 2007. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays at the Berlin Zoo on April 3, 2007. (Barbara Sax / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Doerflein plays with 6-month-old Knut on June 22, 2007. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear Knut the polar bear

Knut during a celebration of his first birthday on Dec. 5, 2007. (Both photos: John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

A reproduction of a special stamp honoring Knut in 2008. (Gero Breloer / European Pressphoto Agency)

knut's 2nd birthday

Knut celebrates his second birthday with treats in 2008. (Michael Gottschalk / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays in the pool in his enclosure in July 2009. (David Gannon / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut relaxes in his enclosure in October 2009. (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

Dirty Knut

Knut after rolling in dirt in September 2009. (Maya Hitij / Associated Press)

Knut the polar bear Knut the polar bear

At left, Knut receives special treats to mark his third birthday in December 2009. At right, he is shown enjoying the cold weather in Berlin earlier the same year. (Left photo: Tim Brakemeier / European Pressphoto Agency; right photo: Johannes Eisele / Reuters)

Knut the polar bear

Knut rests in the snow on Dec. 30, 2009. (Patrick Pleul / European Pressphoto Agency)

Knut the polar bear

Knut shows his tongue on Dec. 30, 2009. (Patrick Pleul / European Pressphoto Agency)

Knut the polar bear

Knut rolls in the snow on Jan. 8, 2010. (John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut plays with a branch on March 4, 2010. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut walks through his enclosure on June 17, 2010. (Barbara Sax / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Three-and-a-half-year-old Knut in June 2010. (Barbara Sax / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut goes for a swim in October 2010. (Odd Anderson / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut interacts with a 6-year-old zoo visitor and her toy, a plush Knut replica, through the glass surrounding his enclosure in October 2010. (Odd Anderson / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut celebrates his fourth birthday by eating a "cake" made of ice and fish on Dec. 5, 2010. (Michael Sohn / Associated Press)

Knut the polar bear

Knut yawns on Dec. 10, 2010. (Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images)

Knut the polar bear

Knut rests in the snow in his enclosure on Dec. 10, 2010. (Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Children stand next to flowers placed at the main entrance of the Berlin Zoo on Sunday, a day after Knut's death. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Flowers and a message to Knut and his late keeper near the famous bear's enclosure on Sunday. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Flowers, mementos and notes from fans are shown near Knut's enclosure on Sunday. Well-wishers flocked to the Berlin Zoo to pay tribute to Knut. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

A child touches an item left for Knut at the Berlin Zoo on Sunday. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Flowers, stuffed polar bears and other items were left by many visitors to the Berlin Zoo following news of Knut's death on Saturday. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Visitors look at tributes next to the polar bear enclosure at the Berlin Zoo. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Roses and a picture of Knut at the entrance to the zoo. (Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

A drawing of Knut is placed next to flowers at the zoo on Monday. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

A makeshift memorial at the Berlin Zoo for Knut the polar bear

Stuffed bears, candles and flowers at the entrance to the zoo. (Markus Schreiber / Associated Press)

MORE ABOUT KNUT'S LIFE:
Knut the polar bear meets his future roommate, gets slapped (2009)
Knut, beloved polar bear, has a run-in with a fan (2008)

-- Lindsay Barnett

 
Comments () | Archives (19)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Rest in peace dear friend. you are now playing in the big pen in the sky.

RIP Knut, you always made me laugh & brightened my day, silly, charming, and all Polar Bear <3

This is so sad. I read somewhere that he wasn't accepted, and the other Polar Bears abused him. That PETA tried to get the zookeepers to protect him but they hadn't yet. I hope that isn't true. How sad for the little children to have seen that. RIP Knut.


He's a wonderful creature, please go to Berliner Zoo website to write something to him. It's important to let the zoo understand people around the world love this special bear. Thanks.

Oh, my goodness! What a beautiful being! Brought lots of love and happiness to all of us! God speed Knut! God speed!

Precious Knut introduced me to the world of magnificent yet charismatically endearing bears. He brought so much joy into my life and the lives of countless thousands of people all over the world. We were all blessed to have his sweetness and goodness with us, even for too short a time. Sleep now sweet angel. I will always love you and cherish your precious memory. Karen Stefanini, one of your many doting and adoring across the Atlantic aunties


Bless you Knut. We will miss you and your antics. you were loved more than you know.

One of your many followers in the USA.

Pretty sad.

The other polar bears did not, I repeat did not, abuse Knut. They wanted to play with him, - he's the one who didn't accept them. Until about a year ago, he had never seen another polar bear, so he was afraid of them. The first one he accepted was Tosca, they played together in the water and had lots of fun. In the last month or so, he accepted Nancy and they exchanged kissies. The one polar bear that he hadn't accepted yet was Kati, who was too assertive for the gentle bear. I have seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos and videos of the 3 ladies being curious about him, and he would ROAR them away. The zoo keepers loved Knuti very much and would never have allowed him to be abused or attacked.

there is something very sad about the loss of both Knut and the man who raised him....i hope they are together again

Knut is at Rainbow Bridge where all loving animals go. What an absolutely precious bear. God blessed us with him for a short time but what he did with his short time on earth. Be happy in Heaven beautiful baby.

This bear has touched my life for the last 4 years. Every day I would check in on him. I made friends all over the world, fellow fans, that I still keep in touch with. He represented something so powerful, so magical, so innocent, charming and mysterious. His life and death now seems elevated to that of many of died young and are still remembered intensely. He is an icon. What is it about him, a bear??? I cannot fathom but his grip on me is undeniable.

B.D.
Oregon

it would have to happen in germany - they will never get over it. sure he was a great little tyke but the germans will take it to heart too much. anything not associated with the green party will take some blame as well. the little guy will wind up being the metaphor for the "99 luftballons" of a new generation, but . . . would the bear have wanted it that way? memorials are for the living indeed.

Knut made us pause and reflect on the beauty of the animal world.

I saw the video. He looked very distraught. It is a tragedy when a captive creature gives up like that.

He was conditioned to being with the loving hands of a human trainer. Not with the brutality of bears. It may have ultimately done him in.

Way to go experts. When I pass soon, I hope you look at your own filthy hands the same way a zookeeper does.

Scum.

Certainly, this adorable polar bear will be missed.

I remember the little guy from 2006. There were some really cute pics of him....like these. So sorry to hear things didn't turn out well for him.

Peace, Ours blanc

Knut was very adorable and cute. He will deffinetly me missed.May he R.I.P. with his zookeeper.

Knut, you will be truly missed by all your fans.
I was so sad to hear of your passing.
You will always have a special place in my heart.
Forever...


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