Knut was a polar bear born December 5, 2006 at the Berlin Zoo. His brother died four days after birth. When his mother rejected Knut, the zoo authorities intervened and he was put in an incubator for 44 days. He was the first polar bear cub to survive past infancy in more than 30 years at the Berlin Zoo. After he was taken out of the incubator a zookeeper named Thomas Dorflein cared for him. Thomas slept on a mattress next to Knut’s crate and played, bathed, and fed the cub every day. This is Thomas and Knut’s love story.
It was in 2006 when I learned this extraordinary story and was completely captivated so I went to visit him. During his lifetime I visited Knut at 4 months of age and then when he was three.
At the zoo, it was obvious that Knut had become a tourist attraction and commercial success. The KNUT phenomenon earned about 5 million euros for the zoo with toys, DVDs, books, etc. Attendance for the first year increased about 30%, making it the most profitable year in the Berlin Zoo’s 163-year history.
Knut thrived under Thomas’ care. The two were inseparable and made a daily appearance before the adoring public. The attached photo is from my visit in 2006.