The beloved polar bear named Knut unexpectedly died yesterday in front of hundreds of visitors at the Berlin Zoo, his home since cubhood, when his mother abandoned him.
The celebrity bear died before his time: he was only four years old. Most polar bears live to be 15-18 years old.
On Saturday, Knut keeled over unexpectedly in front of visitors, fell backwards into the water and floated, lifeless, in the moat surrounding the enclosure he shared with his mother Tosca and female bears Nancy and Katyusha.
While a post-mortem will examine the cause of Knut's death next week, some critics are blaming the Berlin Zoo for the bear's untimely end.
Animal rights groups are denouncing Knut's capitivity in a zoo, saying that that unnatural life led to his early death:
'Berlin Zoo abused Knut as a marketing tool, without consideration for a polar bear's crucial needs,' said the president of the German Animal Rights Association, Wolfgang Apel.
'Knut's short and tortured life shows again that polar bears do not belong in a zoo, even if they are called Knut,' he added.
A PETA spokesperson told TMZ:
His premature death could possibly have been avoided. Polar bears don't belong in captivity.
The PETA rep added that Knut had been "terrorized" by three female polar bears--a fact that the zoo was allegedly aware of, but failed to act upon. "PETA Germany repeatedly asked zoo authorities to move Knut away from the three females to a different location."