Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RIP Knut: Tragic Star Polar Bear

Tragic endings seem to happen far too early for superstars. Especially those who were child stars.

Last Saturday, such a celebrity, Knut - known as the world's most famous polar bear - was found dead in his enclosure at the Berlin Zoo. He was only 4 years old.

His early demise is reminiscent of less furrier stars who leave this world way before their time. Marilyn Monroe. Kurt Cobain. Michael Jackson.

As a young cub, Knut was rejected by his mother and was then hand-reared at the zoo by his keeper, Thomas Doerflein. (Coincidentally, Doerflein was also found dead in his apartment in 2008 due to a sudden heart attack.)

Knut's cute face and snowy-white fur later brought lots of money to the Berlin Zoo. He was on the cover of Vanity Fair (seriously - how many bipeds can even count that as one of their achievements?), on the face of commemorative coins, and spawned a series of collectibles like books, toys and DVDs. He was fawned by thousands and thousands of zoo visitors and Knut-fans.

Adult Knut
Many of these unfortunate visitors witnessed Knut's mysterious death that Saturday. He was reportedly alone in his enclosure at that time, and had wandered into the water where he had a spasm and died.

When Red Dot Diva first saw the news of Knut's death on Twitter, she couldn't help think about the polar bears living in Red Dot Island's equatorial zoo - Sheba and Inuka. It is heartaching to know that these majestic animals are actually kept in captivity when they should clearly belong in the polar wilderness. Yet, in quite a number of cases, zoo animals are actually important gene pools for endangered creatures like these.

Inuka, born in 1990 and a Red Dot Island citizen, is a miracle by himself. He was the first polar bear to ever be born in the tropics. And there had been much debate about his presence in hot humid Singapore, but it seems that zoo officials had agreed that it would not be of his interest to be moved to another temperate zoo.

Visitors to the zoo on Red Dot Island will not be able to give a wave to Sheba and Inuka now. The zoo is currently upgrading their enclosure to 3.5x the previous size. Their new home will be part of the Frozen Tundra exhibit of the new River Safari theme park, which is expected to open in 2012.

Unlike Knut, handsome Inuka ambles amicably around the polar bear enclosure with his mother, Sheba. Knut had to be kept separate from other polar bears and was not known to be friendly with female ones. Perhaps it is true that a mother's love makes a core difference after all.

With all the wave of human affection and attention at such a young age, there seems to be a parallel between Knut and human "child stars". (Red Dot Diva does not need to name these spoilt child stars. One should know who they are!)

Observers have long noted Knut's rather pathological behaviour and constant need of attention in adulthood. Cub Knut had the most photogenic and cuddly mug but like most animals, he grew up to adulthood and wasn't as cute anymore. There were reports that Knut would throw a fit when the zoo "paparazzi" were not present at his enclosure.

As of now, Knut's untimely death is still unknown. His autopsy began this Monday and the Berlin Zoo official says that the results are not known yet.

A sad and shortlived life, Red Dot Diva sighs.

RIP Knut.

May you wander free in happier icy places now.

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