About a year and a half ago I was in Berlin for a conference. Our flight arrived early in the morning, and some of my colleagues wanted to go sightseeing. I knew that we had four long days of workshops ahead of us, I hadn't slept much, and I begged off, pleading that I needed a nap. The Berlin zoo was not far from our hotel, but I just wasn't up to going.
Now I wish I had, because it would have been my only chance to see Knut, the polar bear who as a baby captivated an entire world:
The baby bear's relationship with his handler Thomas Doerflein, brought fame to both, and many, including I suspect Mr. Doerflein, shed a few tears when he had to break the bond because Knut was getting just too big. Doerflein died of a heart attack not long after.
Unfortunately, our fascination with the adorable wore off when the cute little powder puff grew into a large, grungy bear that bore little resemblance to the snow-white bears we see in arctic photos or to his former self.
Our anthropomorphizing of Knut extended to news reports that he was depressed after Doerflein's death, and when a female bear, Gianna, arrived from Munich in 2010, the hype was akin to what we now see for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Here are Knut and Gianna in February 2010:
Here's Knut lass than a month ago, reunited with his mother, Tosca:
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