3/21/2011 1:48:01 PM

Knut, Celebrity Polar Bear, Dies Unexpectedly

KnutKnut, the world-famous polar bear cub hand-raised at the Berlin Zoo after he was rejected by his mother, died unexpectedly on March 29, 2011 at the age of four. Polar bears in the wild typically live 15 to 20 years, but can live well into their 30s—and sometimes early 40s—in zoo settings.

The cute cub tugged at the hearts of millions and inspired them to care about polar bears, although his celebrity status attracted critics as well. Experts performed an necropsy to determine the cause of death. Results revealed brain abnormalities thought to have led to an epiletic seizure. For more photos, videos, and a life history, visit Goodbye Knut: A Tribute to an Extraordinary Polar Bear.

Over the weekend, grieving visitors left flowers, cards, and plush polar bears in the little cub's memory. The Berlin Zoo has set up a fund in his honor to help underwrite polar bear research and habitat preservation and are also considering stuffing him for display in the Berlin Natural History Museum.

Photo courtesy of Berlin Zoo.

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