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Born in December 2006 to a mother who rejected him, Knut was hand-reared by Berlin Zoo bear keeper Thomas Doerflein and adored by millions.
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In March 2007, hundreds of visitors gathered to see the public debut of the first polar bear born at the zoo in 30 years. With his sweet countenance, Knut became an international star overnight.
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Doerflein didn’t just nurse the cub, he played and wrestled with Knut when he got older. They performed daily for zoo visitors until Knut grew too large for it to be safe. Doerflein died in 2008.
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Knut’s international celebrity status helped him land on the covers of two editions of Vanity Fair, and increased zoo attendance by 30 percent.
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A few days after his public debut, Knut was still being his adorable, charming self.
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SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
Knut’s adorable face spawned toys, puzzles, posters, T-shirts and even a hit single called “Knut Is Cute.”
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Like all babies, Knut grew out of his cub phase, and before his second birthday, he was looking like a full-grown polar bear.
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TWO BY TWO
For his second birthday, Knut was serenaded by a crowd of hundreds of people. He received gifts of fish and a frozen vegetable birthday cake.
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LEAN ON TREE
Shortly after his second birthday, Knut took a moment to enjoy the snow and the cold.
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THREE FOR THREE
When the big guy turned 3, he got another beautiful frozen birthday confection, topped with three fish to eat.
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The cold weather-loving bear took a moment to enjoy Berlin’s unusually chilly temperatures in January 2010.
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FEAST OF FOUR
To celebrate turning 4, Knut enjoyed more than just fish – he also got meat and bread.
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Even as an adult bear, one much larger than he was in 2007, Knut could pull out a cute wave from his bag of tricks.
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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Makeshift memorials have sprung up in honor of Knut in Berlin. Fans of the bear are still in shock from his sudden death March 19. “I’ve been blubbering for days,” one wrote online.