Knut The Polar Bear Has Died
March 19, 2011 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Knut, who charmed visitors to the Berlin Zoo as an orphaned cub in 2007, died in his enclosure today in front of a crowd of 600-700 people. Knut was only four years old, as opposed to the typical polar bear lifespan of 15-18 years. Tragedy seems to have followed Knut for his entire brief life: his twin died at only four days old, and the zookeeper who hand-raised him died in 2008. As Knut grew, he stopped being the cute cuddly cub everybody loved; like many zoo animals, his behavior became problematic, and people avoided visiting him. A post-mortem is scheduled for Monday.
posted by briank (76 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by limeonaire at 11:48 AM on March 19, 2011


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posted by Mooski at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2011


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2011


Christ, what an asshole.


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posted by kipmanley at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2011


Wow, that Dennis Miller tweet is hitting like five different bases of shittiness.

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posted by Navelgazer at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


A psychopath is not the same thing as a healthy bear. I'm sure it was sloppy use of psychological language, but if they say something was wrong with him, I'm guessing something was hell of wrong.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2011


A former and only brief Berliner, I saw Knut a few times. Sad as always.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:04 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by trip and a half at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2011


Seems like a pretty fucked up thing to do an animal. Is fame something polar bears are uniquely susceptible to?
posted by phaedon at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2011


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Fuck you Dennis Miller.
posted by josher71 at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


People are confused because an animal that was never meant for captivity acted in ways that were "troubling" and became a menace. Unbelievable.

Dennis Miller can kiss my globally warmed ass.
posted by blucevalo at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2011


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There was a time in my life when I thought Dennis Miller was kind of clever and funny. Either he's gone off the deep end or I was an even bigger shithead as a teenager than I remember having been. Well, or both.
posted by brennen at 12:16 PM on March 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


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posted by good day merlock at 12:21 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by fight or flight at 12:22 PM on March 19, 2011


My three year old has a children's book written about Knut. I'm not going to tell him he's dead; I'm tempted to tell him Dennis Miller died instead.
posted by ambrosia at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Dennis Miller is to dick what polar bear is to predator.
posted by found missing at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2011


Dennis Miller is a Knut.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:27 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dennis needs to bite into a Klondick bar.
posted by phaedon at 12:32 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2011


Dennis is one of the most prominent examples of 9/11 Derangement Syndrome: his brain literally snapped on that day, transforming him in an instant from a moderately witty & incisive comedian into a sucking pit of projected fear masquerading as unfunny conservative sarcasm.

Also, poor Knut.

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posted by Aquaman at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


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posted by box at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2011


I...I must be missing something. Or there's a deletion in progress. I see no link to Dennis Miller tweets, and when I googled for his account, there's nothing on there. Can somebody please explain?
posted by Brainy at 12:50 PM on March 19, 2011


I scrolled down on his twitter and found it. I'm still not sure how it came to everybody's attention though.
posted by Brainy at 12:52 PM on March 19, 2011


Christ what an asshole is the link
posted by Trochanter at 12:52 PM on March 19, 2011


Animals that are rejected by their mothers often have behavioral problems.

I remember reading about black panthers once, and how when a black cub is born to a spotted mother leopard she would often reject it. Hence black panthers have a reputation for being spectacularly ill-tempered.
posted by hermitosis at 12:54 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dennis Miller was rejected by his mother?
posted by found missing at 12:54 PM on March 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


I thought that reputation was because of Huey Newton.
posted by box at 12:59 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by contessa at 1:00 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by kinnakeet at 1:01 PM on March 19, 2011


Calling him a "psychopath" because he wasn't a docile cuddly wuddly is stupid.

Was he a bipolar bear?
posted by Ratio at 1:04 PM on March 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


Must every tragedy, no matter how big or small, have an aging, offensive comedian meddling with their big mouths?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:11 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's some more cheerful polar bear news: Polar Bear Spy Cam Eaten By ... a Polar Bear! Plus Mother & Cub Cuteness (Video)
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty deeply conflicted by this news. It was Knut's birth and subsequent handling that finally turned me, a life long animal lover, against zoos of any kind. He lived a quarter his normal life span and dropped dead in front of a gawking crowd of tourists. His mother sensed something was wrong and did what nature programmed her to do; I believe the kindest thing we could have done for him was to let him go when she did...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by lapolla at 1:31 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by drezdn at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2011


@DennisDMZ Fuck you, clown!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:43 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe the kindest thing we could have done for him was to let him go when she did...

No zoo could do this when it's an endangered species involved. Whether they were right or wrong in how they handled his life and environment, every polar bear is precious and they knew that.
posted by agregoli at 1:44 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by SillyShepherd at 1:48 PM on March 19, 2011


Oh Knut. If only you could have had a better life.

"His mother sensed something was wrong and did what nature programmed her to do..."

Is that necessarily the case, though? Something must have been wrong with the poor bear, but it doesn't have to follow that the thing that killed Knut is the same thing that made his mother reject him. Maybe she wasn't a good mother (not enough maternal hormones), or didn't feel that conditions were right. It could have been anything.

His death seems awfully early, though. Maybe it was the stress of being "abandoned" when the keepers had to stop playing with him.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:49 PM on March 19, 2011


I have only visited Berlin Zoo once, back in the mid-1990s, quite frankly it was horrible. Tigers crowded in a cage, one walking in a figure 8 repetitively, with the same pacing and head swaying on each circuit. Penguins outside in 30C weather with only a few muddy puddles to keeo cool, and moulting as a result. A key reason I don't go to zoos any more.

At least this poor animal will no longer be helping to keep the place in business.
posted by biffa at 1:52 PM on March 19, 2011


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posted by re.becca at 1:56 PM on March 19, 2011


A key reason I don't go to zoos anymore.

I'm sorry you don't go to good zoos, and help support the very important work the good ones do. I don't believe in keeping large predators like polar bears, but zoos have been instrumental in saving endangered animal populations and do important research too.
posted by agregoli at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


biffa: " A key reason I don't go to zoos any more."

I find them very depressing.

I'm sorry you don't go to good zoos, and help support the very important work the good ones do. I don't believe in keeping large predators like polar bears, but zoos have been instrumental in saving endangered animal populations and do important research too.

A sincere question: how does one tell the difference between a good and a bad zoo?
posted by zarq at 2:06 PM on March 19, 2011


KNoooOOOOOooOOoooOooooOOOOooooOOooOOO!!!
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:11 PM on March 19, 2011


A sincere question: how does one tell the difference between a good and a bad zoo?

Bad Zoo. Good Zoo.
posted by Xurando at 2:12 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am very conflicted about zoos. I think -- or at least I want to think -- that people who run them (the good ones anyway) are absolutely dedicated to animals, want to help them, want to see them live, want people to learn about them and respect and admire them. I can't help but being a sucker for ZooBorns -- it's taught me about so many amazing, beautiful animals that I want to live in the world with, that I want to create a world for where animals like that can be cute babies in the wild.

But then I read about Knut and it's like ... eh, maybe zoos don't really care about animals after all. I'm sorry he didn't get to be a proper polar bear. I'm also sorry we're destroying the world to such a degree that it's making impossible for any polar bears to just be polar bears.
posted by darksong at 2:13 PM on March 19, 2011


http://www.goodzoos.com/

Thanks, Xurando. Much appreciated.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on March 19, 2011


The Columbus Zoo isn't listed on Good Zoos and I really wonder why. Cincinnati's is, I've been to both, and I think they are fairly similar from what I can tell (and would consider them both pretty good to their animals as far as I can tell).
posted by imabanana at 2:30 PM on March 19, 2011


Okay, those polar bear spy camera videos made me feel a little better, especially the parts where they zoom around on the snow intrepidly.
posted by elizardbits at 2:32 PM on March 19, 2011


I remember that Dennis, back when he wasn't an irredeemable asshole yet, had a great joke about global warming, that Jesse Helms blamed global warming on the AIDS quilt. One day, perhaps scientists can show how 9/11 broke Dennis' brain.

And why would 9/11 prompt Dennis to go one way, and Al Franken totally the other? And was Victoria Jackson similarly changed, or was she nuts from the start?

All the more reason to miss Phil Hartman. I hope Phil and Knut are roughhousing tonight on that great ice floe in the sky.

posted by Capt. Renault at 2:36 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my limited experience the Bronx Zoo was very good, giving the animals (such as the apes at least) huge amounts of space to do what they were going to do, most of it outside of public view.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:44 PM on March 19, 2011


The Columbus Zoo isn't listed on Good Zoos and I really wonder why.

Because it seems to be pretty outdated, at least based on the few zoos I clicked through to. Site seems like a better idea than implementation.
posted by inigo2 at 3:01 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone can leave a review on the goodzoos site, though it needs to be one of their staff to give a rating apparently. The Berlin Zoo review dates from 2000 and focuses on the architecture of the elephant house and the layout, no mention of animal welfare and the reviewer would seem to have had no expertise anyway. Doesn't seem like much of a resource.
posted by biffa at 3:27 PM on March 19, 2011


And the Lincoln Park Chicago zoo is on there at all, and has just a PR blurb about how long it's been around.

I feel like Knut's death and the idea that they should have followed the mom's lead and put him to sleep.. It's just as if, if I had a kid, and they found a baby kitten and asked me if they could raise it, I would tell them they have to do it the right way if they're going to do it at all. If you're going to take responsibility for another creature's life, you have to be very careful. It looks like they didn't do that, allowing him to become addicted to fame and live a very confused life. It's just a sad story all around.
posted by amethysts at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2011


""His mother sensed something was wrong and did what nature programmed her to do..."

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that we "shouldn't meddle with nature". We are nature. We build huge roads and railways that damage wildlife. We cut down huge amounts of forestation. We are part of nature, we affect nature. We kill animals to live.

The whole idea that if we meddle some tragedy will happen is silly. We are already meddling and tragedies are already befalling certain species as a direct result. Worst case scenario we meddle "for the good" and it still turns out bad. That's exactly the same as if we hadn't meddled at all.

We are animals. If our animal instints tell us to care about species other than our own, then we are no more or less "following mother nature" as the polar bear who abandoned her cub. Her instincts said "who cares, don't want this one", some humans instincts said, "I want to save that cub."

Two animals both following their instincts. We can't go against mother nature. We are mother nature. Apparently it seems we very often represent her dark side, but it's nice when we care about animals. Yes if we meddle we should be as researched as possible and aware of the long term consequences of such, but ultimately we, like every other species are just following instincts. I am in favor of saving abandoned baby animals as much as I am saving abandoning baby humans.

Whose behavior is also often affected by abandonment.
posted by xarnop at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


An awful lot of the ZooBorns stories mention that the baby animal was rejected by its mother. I assume some of that is self-selecting, as hand-rearing makes it easier to take adorable pictures of adorable babies, but it's also made me think that maternal rejection is just a common side effect of raising wild animals in zoos. Any biologists able to confirm or refute?
posted by nev at 3:50 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


was Victoria Jackson similarly changed, or was she nuts from the start?

it's the second one. that sort of crazy doesn't pop up over night.
posted by nadawi at 3:51 PM on March 19, 2011


Just to say, in rats, they typically seperate the rats at birth to induce psychologically and behavioraly abnormal rats. It works in many other mammillian species.
posted by xarnop at 3:56 PM on March 19, 2011


. for cute fuzzy deadly Knut.
posted by LMGM at 4:03 PM on March 19, 2011


Poor Knut. :( I'm so sad about this.

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posted by perilous at 4:06 PM on March 19, 2011


"His mother sensed something was wrong and did what nature programmed her to do..."

Nah. Female animals reject their offspring all the time, seemingly randomly. I've helped bottle rear many a lamb, cow and horse becaue Mom decided they weren't interested and/or actively tried to stomp junior to death. You do have to be careful they'don't grow up thinking they're a person though, which is easy enough with social animals like sheep where you can often find a surrogate Mom but probably quite a bit harder with bears who have a tendency to eat cubs.

Also lot of first time mothers will kill their offspring either on purpose or through neglect and do fine with subsequent offspring. Successfully rearing offspring is a learned skill, more so in more complicated animals.
posted by fshgrl at 4:13 PM on March 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nev, I'm sure someone is way more researched on this than I, but they tend to find that animals with early life stress and maternal infant seperation tend to have a slew of biological changes that affect aggressive, abandoning, and neglectful behavior toward offspring. I would pressume being in a zoo would be stressful.

Hand rearing by humans of preweaned animals does have consequences and in dogs the biggest risk is that humans are too gentle. A dog mother will nip or growl if her puppy bites but humans tend to be gentle. Social creatures need to play with their own (species) peers to understand how to behave.

In general, a zoo is an abnormal environment. It would be ridiculous to not pressume that at least some animals would have changes in behavior as a result.
posted by xarnop at 4:18 PM on March 19, 2011


Confirming fshgrl. You know what you have to watch a good number of new dams in many species for? That they don't simply eat their own babies. I have a few sets of radiographs that demonstrate the the difference between a retained fetal animal in the uterus and one the dam ate while no one was looking.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:22 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by galadriel at 4:34 PM on March 19, 2011


Capt. Renault: I remember that Dennis, back when he wasn't an irredeemable asshole yet, had a great joke about global warming, that Jesse Helms blamed global warming on the AIDS quilt.
I believe the actual quote was "Pat Buchanan is so homophobic, he blames global warming on the AIDS quilt". It's actually one of my all-time favorite one liners (and from what I know of Dennis Miller, he probably paid someone to write that one) and I remember it from, god, 20 years later? It's a beautiful piece of comic phrasing, involving multiple levels of humor and punnery.

Which is why that guy becoming an unbelievable turd of a human being is so surprising; typically when someone is clever, insightful, and already leaning left, they simply can't lose that cynical awareness that made them funny to begin with. It'd be like Bill Hicks living and becoming a born-again Christian: it should be impossible short of actual head trauma, because how could a guy like that ever "turn off" his skepticism and humor long enough to genuinely believe in something like that? It's very hard to put your head in the sand and just stop remembering how to be thoughtful, which is what made them not-assholes- and good comics- in the first place. It's also why right-wing conservatives just generally are terrifically unfunny people.

Oh, and sad to hear about Knut; he was used up quickly for his cuteness and the money it made the zoo, then burnt out young. Kind of a polar bear Marilyn Monroe.
posted by hincandenza at 5:06 PM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Video footage (warning: this may be very upsetting to some) of his final moments show him circling and seeming very disoriented before he collapses into the water and never surfaces. I have seen the disoriented circling in an elderly cat who was having a stroke and I wonder if this wasn't something similar.

RIP, Knut.
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posted by Heretic at 5:46 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sad.

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posted by bwg at 6:21 PM on March 19, 2011


Sorry you had such a shitty life Knut. Anyone know of a good arctic nature conservancy program to donate to?
posted by benzenedream at 8:21 PM on March 19, 2011


"His mother sensed something was wrong and did what nature programmed her to do..."

Maternal rejection in animals is very often nothing more than the baby being colder than it should be (because it got further away than it should), or smelling oddly (because something got on it), or the mother having hypocalcemia (which makes for big time crazy), or any number of other things which have nothing whatsoever to do with there being anything wrong with the baby.

I find it hard to fathom why it would have been preferable to allow Knut to just die as a baby than at least attempt to raise him well (which is what happened). (and all this "fame addict" stuff is bizarre and doesn't read like anything written or said by people who know anything about animals...maybe they were talking about Charlie Sheen?)
posted by biscotti at 8:21 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, the late Princess Diana claims it was a heroin overdose.
posted by acb at 8:29 PM on March 19, 2011


and all this "fame addict" stuff is bizarre and doesn't read like anything written or said by people who know anything about animals

Daily Mail. Can't we block Daily Mail links like we do with <img> tags?
posted by Vetinari at 8:35 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by liza at 9:19 PM on March 19, 2011


They're bloodthirsty killers by default, in addition to being highly curious. Calling him a "psychopath" because he wasn't a docile cuddly wuddly is stupid.

While I agree with Burhanistan, I have to note the same is true of cats.
posted by orthogonality at 2:14 AM on March 20, 2011


If you care about nature, then drop the human population of the planet. Everything else is just wankery. If you aren't ready to drop the human population, then welcome to the grown up world of lose-lose compromise and weekend getaways to forget.

We are basically all a bunch of sometimes wonderful, well meaning assholes. Our best bet is to incentivize the empowerment of women and their control over their own bodies, and maybe I can hope for the cherry on top of that sundae to be dragging the rich, white conservative men of the world from their houses and drowning them in pools of molten gold.
posted by Bushidoboy at 7:26 AM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


More specifically, why the fuck can't we just develop the two way viewing system they use in Star Trek on a realistic, present day scale so the animals don't even know people are watching them? It isn't a total solution but dammit if it isn't a realistic and good one for now.


Humanity is wonderful, people suck.
posted by Bushidoboy at 7:29 AM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Daily Mail. Can't we block Daily Mail links like we do with tags?

Well, if you're running Firefox or Chrome, you can install the Kitten Block plugin from Tea and Kittens. It's just what it sounds like--it replaces the Daily Mail with soothing pictures of tea and kittens.

Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with Tea and Kittens. I just happen to live in the same neighborhood as the guy who made it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:08 AM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


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