Born at the Berlin Zoo in December 2006, the cuddly cub Knut, dubbed Cute Knut, quickly became the most famous polar bear in the world. And when he died tragically this year at the age of 4, his passing made headlines around the world.
His fame stemmed from Knut's mother, who rejected him at birth, leading him to be reared by zookeeper Thomas Dorflein (Knut was the first polar bear to be born and raised at the Berlin Zoo in 33 years). The apotheosis of his fame was perhaps when he shared a Vanity Fair cover with Leonardo DiCaprio in 2007, featuring a photo of Knut taken by Annie Leibovitz. His death was (sadly) worthy of a movie, especially since video was taken. Knut collapsed into a pool of water in his enclosure, while hundreds of visitors watched in horror. Pathology experts said Knut's cause of death was drowning, following an apparent seizure due to his suffering from encephalitis, a swelling of the brain most likely triggered by an infection. "We all held him so dearly. He was the star of the Berlin zoos," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said.