Knut the Polar Bear Dies at Berlin Zoo of Brain Problems

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"The long term outlook for polar bears is grim," said Geoff York, head of Arctic species for the World Wildlife Federations global program. But he contends that zoos play a role in finding a solution. "We simply can't learn everything in the wild. Zoo's have a potential role to play in conservation and educating the public about polar bears, but when it comes to negatives it's all about maintaining high standards."

The San Diego Zoo re-launched its polar bear plunge exhibit last year, and says it is one of many zoos looking to expand its facilities as the threat of climate change grows on the polar habitat.

Dr. Randi Meyerson, polar bear survival plan coordinator for the Association for Zoos and Aquariums, says new polar bear exhibits are being designed to cater to the roaming nature of polar bears. "We give them environments where they can do similar activities as they do in the wild and we can keep them busy. We also don't go out and trap healthy bears, so they typically don't have to acclimate to the loss of vast living expanses."

In death, at least for now, "Knutmania" looks like it will live on. The news of his sudden death has sparked tributes across the social media world. On his Facebook fan page, many have continued to pay tribute. Fans are now attempting to collect donations to erect a memorial in his honor.

Outside the Berlin zoo, PETA has already laid its own plaque and it reads, "Not a single day in freedom, a life without dignity, forgive us Knut."

As for Knut, even in death he may be an attraction. There are reports that the animal will be stuffed and displayed at the Berlin museum.

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