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Animals

Berlin Zoo unveils memorial to Knut the polar bear

A statue of Germany's most beloved polar bear, Knut, was unveiled at the Berlin Zoo where he lived. Knut's sudden death last year saddened his fans from around the world.

A woman touches a monument to polar bear Knut after its unveiling at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. Polar bear Knut became a global celebrity before his sudden death last year. (Photo:Michael Sohn/AP/dapd)

Deutschland Zoo Denkmal vom Eisbär Knut in Berlin

A sculpture of Knut was unveiled at the Berlin Zoo on Wednesday in front of a crowd of 300 people who had gathered to pay tribute to the late polar bear.

Knut's story captivated Germans and animal lovers from around the world. He was born in the zoo in 2006, but was rejected by his mother. A zookeeper named Thomas Dörflein fed Knut from a bottle, and by the time Knut had reached adolescence in 2007, he was an international celebrity. The Berlin Zoo experienced a sharp increase in visitors who wanted to see Knut, and Knut merchandise flew off the shelves.

Thomas Dörflein and Knut (Photo: AP)

Dörflein and Knut were a team for two years

Dörflein, whose playful relationship with his adopted bear was part of Knut's charm, died four years ago of heart failure. In 2011, Knut died unexpectedly of a brain disease that had gone undetected.

As sympathy poured in from around the world, the Berlin Zoo commissioned Ukraine-born artist Josef Tabachnyk to create the sculpture of Knut that was unveiled Wednesday.

Titled "Knut - The Dreamer," the bronze statue depicts a young Knut lounging on a rock.

There were many tears shed at the unveiling ceremony, and some well-wishers brought flowers and wreaths.

Dörflein's mother was also in attendance, brining along a sunflower in memory of her son and his care of Knut.

mz/rc (dpa, AP, AFP)