Knut, the Cute Polar Bear Cub Rejected by Mother Dies Suddenly at Berlin Zoo

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Berlin’s beloved polar bear Knut, an international star who as a cuddly, fluffy cub graced magazine covers (photographed by Annie Leibovitz), movies and merchandise, died Saturday.

Knut, the cute polar bear who starred on the cover of Vanity Fair cover with Leonardo DiCaprio, died suddenly of an unknown cause. He was alone in his habitat, when he died in the water in front of about 600 visitors at the Berlin Zoo.

Knut was hand-raised by zoo keepers after being rejected by his mother just after birth. He was born on December 5, 2006 in captivity at the Berlin Zoological Garden, and was the first polar bear cub to survive past infancy at the Berlin Zoo in more than thirty years.

Knut is a Scandinavian first name, of which the anglicised form is Cnut or Canute. In Germany both “Knut” and “Knud” are used. The name is derived from the Old Norse Knútr meaning “knot”.

The Berlin Zoological Garden is the oldest and best known zoo in Germany. Opened in 1844 it covers 84 acres and is located in Berlin’s Tiergarten. The zoo was rebuilt after World War II after it was completely destroyed and only 91 of 3,715 animals survived. Now the Berlin Zoological Garden has about 1,500 different species and counts 17,000 animals at the zoo — the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.