Monday, March 21, 2011

Goodbye Knut

I was saddened to learn of the sudden death of Knut, the famous polar bear at Berlin Zoological Garden, this Saturday.  Knut’s celebrity spilled into the Postilius household this Valentines Day.  Amanda gave Ezra the book, Knut: The Baby Polar Bear, as a gift, and the book immediately became one of our favorite bedtime reads.  Unlike most of our bedtime stories, Ezra reads Knut to us.  He points to the first photo of the adorable cub Knut and tells us it’s a “bear” and a “baby.”  He tells us about the “shoe” and “ball” Knut is playing with in other photos, and the “bath” Knut is enjoying on the next page.  The story ends with Knut falling asleep as Ezra wishes him, “night-night, Knut.”

Knut and his brother were born at Zoo Berlin on December 5, 2006.  Their celebrated arrival soon turned to potential tragedy as their mother, a 20 year-old former circus performer, refused to care for the cubs, and abandoned them on a rock in her enclosure.  Zookeeper Thomas Dörfelin stepped in to provide round the clock care to the guinea pig sized bears.  Though Dörfelin could not save Knut’s brother, who died of infection after four days, Knut thrived in his care, and he became the Zoo Berlin’s first polar bear to survive infancy in more than 30 years.   On March 23, 2007, Knut was presented to the public for the first time.  Four hundred journalists from around the world visited the zoo that day to report on this young bear and his human caretaker.  Interest in Knut never waned and he soon graced magazine covers, a German postage stamp, and brought record numbers of visitors to Zoo Berlin.  His popularity was met with both celebration and criticism.  I too have mixed feelings about Knut’s celebrity, but with Ezra I wish him sweet dreams. “Night-night, Knut.”

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