Preliminary Autopsy Results: Knut May Have Died of Brain Disease

The tragic death of Knut, the world-famous polar bear, may have been caused by brain problems, the Berlin Zoo said on Tuesday following the release of preliminary findings of his autopsy. The zoo plans to erect a memorial in his honor.

Knut last December, shortly after his fourth birthday. Zoom
AFP

Knut last December, shortly after his fourth birthday.

The sudden death of Knut, the celebrity polar bear, may have been caused by a brain disease, the Berlin Zoo said on Tuesday following an autopsy.

"The first results of the examination found significant changes to the brain, which could be regarded as the reason for the sudden death of the polar bear," the zoo said in a statement. "The pathologists didn't find any changes in other organs."

Photo Gallery

13  Photos
Photo Gallery: The Sad Fairytale of Knut
Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research will take several more days to complete bacteriological and organ tissue tests, the zoo said. No further details were immediaterly available.

Knut had collapsed on Saturday afternoon after suffering what eyewitnesses said apperared to be an epileptic fit. He fell off a rock into the moat surrounding his enclosure and drowned before zookeepers could reach him. Hundreds of visitors witnessed the tragic spectacle.

The polar bear was hand-reared at the Berlin Zoo after his mother rejected him shortly after his birth on Dec. 5, 2006. Fans around the world are mourning his death.

Zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz has denied accusations by animal welfare organizations that Knut died of stress caused by being forced to share his enclosure with three other polar bears. Knut fans say he was often bullied by the older females, including his mother Tosca.

Monument to Knut

The president of the German Animal Welfare Federation, Wolfgang Apel, said the zoo had been too eager to get Knut to mate with the females. Having to share enclosures was "pure stress" for polar bears, which are accustomed to living alone in the wild.

Berlin Zoo will erect a monument in Knut's honor, said Thomas Ziolko, the chairman of the Friends of the Berlin Zoo. "Knut will live on in the hearts of many visitors, but it's important to create a memorial for coming generations to preserve the memory of this unique animal personality," he said.

The sculpture will be financed through donations. Blaszkiewitz said on Tuesday that the sculpture might depict Knut in his heyday -- as the polar bear cub who enchanted so many people. Knut may also be stuffed and put on display in a Berlin museum.

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