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Polar Bear Knut May Be Stuffed, Shown in Berlin Nature Museum

One year old polar bear Knut, poses in Berlin Zoo on  Jan. 13, 2008. Photographer: Jose Giribas/Bloomberg News
One year old polar bear Knut, poses in Berlin Zoo on Jan. 13, 2008. Photographer: Jose Giribas/Bloomberg News

March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Knut, the Berlin polar bear who rose to fame after his mother abandoned him to be hand-reared by zookeepers, may be stuffed and exhibited in the city’s Natural History Museum after his premature death, the museum said.

Knut collapsed and died in his enclosure on March 19 at the age of four. Zoologischer Garten Berlin AG said yesterday in a statement on its website that an initial examination of his corpse showed brain abnormalities that may be the reason for his sudden demise. Many fans would welcome the chance to visit a stuffed Knut at the museum, bearkeeper Heiner Kloes told Radio Berlin Brandenburg today.

“It is true that our taxidermists are working on his corpse and have removed his fur,” Gesine Steiner, a spokeswoman for the Natural History Museum, said in a telephone interview today. “We haven’t yet made a decision on whether we will stuff him and exhibit him. We have to talk to the zoo. We do of course have lots of stuffed zoo animals on show here.”

In 2007, the year Knut was born, the zoo attracted 3.2 million visitors, an increase of 21 percent from 2006. He was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with Leonardo DiCaprio in a portrait by Annie Leibovitz, and television channels documented the cub’s every move as he learned to swim, slurped milk out of a bottle and snuggled up to his handler, Thomas Doerflein.

Doerflein died in 2008 at the age of 44. Reports in Berlin newspapers last year said Knut was bullied and bitten by the three females who shared his enclosure.

Several outraged Knut fans expressed horror at plans to stuff the bear in entries in the zoo’s online condolence book, which featured 5,500 posts as of today.

“To stuff Knut is to abuse the feelings of millions of Knut fans all over the world,” posted Horst Krause. “Knut deserves a worthy burial.”

Pathologists are still examining Knut’s corpse, the Berlin zoo said yesterday, promising to publish the final results.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at chickley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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