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Hundreds mourn for star polar bear Knut

Fans of Knut the polar bear flocked to his zoo enclosure to mourn the sudden death of the celebrity who burst into the limelight as a cuddly, fluffy cub hand-fed by his keeper.

The beloved four-year-old died on Saturday afternoon in front of hundreds of visitors, taking keepers, animal experts and fans by surprise.

The life expectancy of polar bear in the wild is between 15 and 20 years, but animals in captivity normally live even longer.

Fans crowded around Knut's empty compound yesterday, laying down red roses and toy polar bears, lighting candles or putting up pictures of Knut with personal messages.

Knut was rejected by his mother at birth, along with his twin brother, who only survived a couple of days.

Thomas Doerflein, the zookeeper who raised Knut, died in 2008 of a heart attack and the bear fell into depression afterwards.

hnews@herald.ie