Knut the Polar Bear Dies at Berlin Zoo of Brain Problems

Exact cause of famous 4-year-old bear's death still uncertain.

ByABC News
March 22, 2011, 4:17 PM

March 22, 2011 -- As with most moments in the short life of the world's most famous polar bear, Knut's final seconds were captured on camera.

In new disturbing video posted on YouTube you can hear spectators in the Berlin Zoo last weekend watch in curiosity and then horror as the young bear first starts going in circles around his own shadow, then convulses and falls to his death in a pool of water.

The Berlin Zoo says a test performed on the famous polar bear shows that "significant changes" in the animal's brain led to his death. A necropsy, according to the zoo, did not show changes in any other organs. The zoo is trying to pinpoint the exact cause of death.

Polar bears usually live at least 15 to 20 years in wild, and even longer when removed from the harsh Arctic elements. This is leaving many to question how Knut's life in captivity may have contributed to the death of the just 4-year old bear.

The German branch of PETA repeatedly raised concerns with the Berlin Zoo about Knut's captivity and fame during his short life. "We have been after this zoo ever since they made Knut a tourist attraction to his detriment," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "When he was small cuddly and fuzzy he was cute and everybody loved him. But then he grew and became boring and everyone lost attention. He was not hand fed anymore or babied and loved. He was put in an enclosure about 1 millionth of the space he would be in nature."

Knut's twin brother died soon after birth. They were rejected by their mother, a former East German circus bear, immediately after they were born. Knut was raised by a zookeeper who bottle-fed him and taught him to swim. The little bear became an instant celebrity after he was introduced to the world in March 2007. But like so many of his human celebrity counterparts, he was a child star who had trouble adjusting as he grew up.