Knut The Bear Dies of Loneliness and Lack of Attention And Teaches Us Some Major Life Lessons

I am  beyond sad and very disturbed  that precious once world-famous “Knut the Bear” has just died in a Berlin Zoo. He died at the age of 4 1/2 and had at least 10 to 13 years ahead of him if not more. There was no predator to kill him. There was no fight he got into with another animal. He didn’t take drugs and OD.

 So, did someone at the zoo kill him because he was labeled as being “difficult,” psychotic” and a “narcissist” who was too difficult to handle? Or did he die of loneliness and a broken heart? I pray it is not the first. But  I have every reason to believe that it was the latter.

 His life and his death teach us so many huge lessons on many levels- from why childhood stars turn out the way they do and often self destruct to other valuable lessons.

It clearly shows us  how important it is to have the companion of others, and to be physically touched, cuddled  and  loved on a consistent  basis.  

It also shows us the very sad truth – a  reality that happens all too often in business and in personal relationships – that  there is a chance we can be  easily discarded when we are no longer of value or use to anyone. It’s sad, but horribly  true in all too many cases.

Knut was the most adorable little polar bear who was rejected by his mother when he was born in captivity at  the  Berlin zoo on December 4, 2006.


The zoo keepers kept this adorable ball of white fluffy fur  alive and nurtured him.

 Knut  even had his own keeper who slept in his pen with him and attended to his every need.  


Knut was very happy as he bonded with his human daddy, who fed him, hugged him, bathed him, kissed him, hugged him, and played with him. Knut was given a tremendous amount of love and affection. 



When baby Knut was a little over 3 months old  he  was put  on display, for all to see. People came to see him from all over the world. He became a celebrity,  as the crowds of people who visited him purchased   Knute memorabilia tee shirts, mugs, key chains, candy, postcards posters, plastic replicas,  and stuffed likenesses of him.

He loved the flashes of the camera and even posed when photos of him were taken by the countless visitors.  



A year later he even made the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine  in an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot.



But as Knute grew older,  he was no longer cute. Crowds  dwindled as they stopped coming to see him. Gone were the flashing cameras. Gone were the crowds of smiling delighted children squealing at his antics and tricks.

If there was not a wall between Knut and the visitors, Knute could have done some serious harm.

Also gone was his keeper, as the older Knute got be more difficult  and harder  to handle. His hug was a huge bear hug that could hurt, maim and kill, His teeth grew into big long bear teeth that could bite, pierce, and kill. Even though Knute still thought of himself as a playful baby cub, he was in reality, a dangerous polar bear.


 Knute had no other bear mates to play with. He was isolated now that this keeper was gone and that he was treated like any other ordinary wild zoo animal. He got depressed and  became  unmanageable. He acted out and would howl for hours until he saw  human people come  in front of his glass container. When they did he would immediately  calm down . He cried and cried until people took his photos and flashed their cameras in his big bear face. He loved it!

But then the visitors  stopped all together at various time, especially during the winter. Knute got more and more depressed and even got violent. The zookeeper even publicly called him a sociopath and  said he was a narcissist and impossible to manage.


In order to appease Knute’s anger, the zoo staff would have to walk by his enclosure and take flash photos of him. This went on  throughout the day, which cost the staff time and money as it took away from their other responsibilities.



So 4 ½  years later The Berlin zoo’s bear keeper Heiner Kloes reported to The Associated Press that Knute the  bear died alone and  in his compound. His exact words were:

“He was by himself in his compound, he was in the water, and then he was dead,” said Kloes. “He was not sick, we don’t know why he died.”

Even though a  post mortem will be conducted on Monday to try and discover the exact cause of  Knute’s death I wonder if there was something else that killed him. Did Knute lose his will to live? Did he commit suicide by drowning himself?

 I strongly believe that Knute died because he had no interaction  with anyone- bear or human and he was no longer a star.

His anger consumed him as he was not given the attention that he was raised with. Since infancy, he was raised to believe that he would be loved and cuddled nurtured and given massive attention. He was raised to believe that he would have a lot of physical contact as he did as a baby,  when he  was loved  up cuddled and kissed and hugged as he played with his keeper, who lived with him.

But now there was no one to touch him and cuddle him and love him up. It saddened him and then it made him furious. Then it made him depressed and despondent until he lost his will to live and did himself in by either shutting down his own systems or perhaps even drowning himself.


 So how does what happened to Knute apply to human beings? What can we learn from it?

For one thing we can really see why child actors go off the deep end. They are catered to and paid an enormous amount of attention like Knute was. Then when they grow up and are suddenly not the cute little cherub of a child. They aren’t cast in as many films or TV shows. They don’t get all the goodies that come along with being a star like recognition and constant pampering, and getting away with mouthing off or getting whatever they want because they are the cash earning cow.

 When the gigs stop coming, they get bummed out, much like Knute. And when the public recognition stops, they get angry, just like Knute.

Knut turned his anger outwards, by having tantrums and acting out, much like child stars have done.  He also turned it inwards by getting depressed and essentially giving up on life. If Knut had access to alcohol and drugs, no doubt he would take them as well to numb his pain.

He would do it to numb himself against the pain of feeling worthless, because he was no longer relevant in other people’s eyes.

 He didn’t have a bear parent to guide him and nurture him. He didn’t have a bunch of bear buddies  to hand out with, or a bear girlfriend to love him up. He didn’t even have a human who could come into his enclosure and give him the hugs and kisses he hungered for that he had as a baby.  

While they don’t wail and scream and show physical violence towards others as a means of getting attention, all too  often, child actors  who have grown up, often turn that anger outwards to get attention by  behaving badly and by taking drugs       



Instead of love and compassion and support,  Knut  had a zoo keeper that called him a sociopath and a narcissist and said Knute was dangerous and impossible to be around. Buy who created that sociopath and narcissist?  The Berlin Zoo created it and THEY needed to rectify the mess they created. They needed to get him some buddies.

They needed to make sure he was still front and center as the Zoo’s star. They needed to stop complaining about the extra work they had to do to appease Knute by taking his photos at regular intervals during the day.

They needed to get him a some bear buds or a girlfriend or two so he could have fun and socialize. In fact they needed to have socialized him with other baby bears his age at the very beginning of his life.. Even if they were brown bears or other species of animals Knute  could have bonded with them. But the zoo officials apparently seemed to be too busy making  immediate money to notice or to think about the little bear’s future mental and emotional health.   


 As cold and heartless as it is, too many have known the despair of being laid off because they were too old . There are other who know the pain of not even  being hired because they are too old.

With the exception of Meryl Streep,  and  perhaps Helen Mirren and Judy Dench,   just ask any woman actress over 50 in Hollywood and they will tell you. Especially ask those who were once the hottest at the box office like Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, and  Kathleen Turner. The roles stop coming and suddenly the tabloids  which fuel public interest ,don’t care what they say or do. There is a new batch of brand new young hot  beauties .

As long as these leading ladies were making millions of dollars for the studios, they were getting job after job. Now they are thrilled if they get a character role or two every once in a while.

It happens to men and women  a lot  in business. Gone are the days  when you are at a company for 40 years and get a  gold watch and a party when you retire. Instead men and women  are let go due to downsizing. After all why should they pay a seasoned executive a hefty salary,  when they can hire 3 young turks or turkettes  who are also super computer savvy for the same price?

It happens in relationships too. In the dating world the biggest complaint I hear for both men and women is  that he or she is “always looking for something better.”  If there is conflict in the relationship, instead of working things out,  all too many find it easier to break up  or divorce and go on to someone else. Where is the loyalty?

It’s the same lack of loyalty that happened to little Knute after he became big Knute and no longer earned the stream of revenue he once earned with all of his merchandising and hoards of visitors,  who paid top dollar to see him.  

Now that he was no longer cute and a money making machine, he was not that important. He obviously felt it and  it broke his heart and soul. Tragically he died.



Maybe he didn’t die in vain. Maybe his death has opened up our eyes to treating one another with more respect. Maybe it opened up our eyes to not take others for granted and to appreciate them and let them know how much we appreciate and love them. Maybe it opened up our eyes to giving people a special touch and a hug or a kiss to show that we adore them. And maybe it opened our eyes to make us realize how much we need one another and how we can’t be isolated. We need to be with others. We need to communicate, touch, and laugh,and hug, and cuddle. Every living creature needs other living creatures to flourish and to live.    

Good Bye  Dear Knute. RIP and God Bless Your  Bear Soul.


34 thoughts on “Knut The Bear Dies of Loneliness and Lack of Attention And Teaches Us Some Major Life Lessons

  1. Such a sad story. I think any living thing born into such grand circumstances would die of loneliness and grief if life became nothing more than a sort of solitary confinement day in and day out. We all need love and affection. I remember when this little bear was born and became a “star” by the standards of those who marketed him to be such. It angers me that so many animals abandon their young in the zoos of the world…most likely because the surroundings are so intrusive and not natural to the animals. Even when mother and baby do bond, they are stressed each time the baby is separated from it’s mother and removed from the birth den for examination by the zoo staff. It almost seems like a game to the zoo staff…as though; if they can only disrupt the bonding they will be able to meddle and raise the baby themselves. I do not care for zoos and think they should be outlawed everywhere. This world is home to animals, too, and I believe they should have rights from those who are supposed to be “superior in intellect.” If we are, then let’s act and behave as though we are and leave animals alone to live the lives they are supposed to live. It isn’t just OUR world.


  2. Dr. Glass, I also want to say that I find your tender feelings towards this bear very touching. He does teach us quite a bit about ourselves…if we remember what we learn and apply it towards kindness and empathy for those around us, we will be better people.


  3. Boy this is a good post. Can you imagine what the children of reality tv are going to go through in the future? Or even their parents?


  4. I agree, great entry. Excellent job correlating poor Knut’s experience to that of former child stars as well as other “has-beens.” I’m going to go link to it from my blog.


  5. Dr. Glass, what a wonderful tribute to this little bear. I followed his story from day one. I never understood why they did not give him a campanion. The excuses they gave were all so flimsy. When he stopped making them money, as you said, they stopped caring. The poor little bear lived a very lonely life. I believe, too, he died of a broken heart. I can see a direct link to child actors, with what happened to Knut. Thank you for such a touching tribute.


  6. seriously, this article made me tear up a little. It does make it clear why Knut would be difficult or hard to get along with as an adult. It seems so wrong to have animals isolated in zoos, it’s very unnatural. It’s like everything was taken from him.


  7. While I see the comparison you are trying to make and it really does make you think about how reality-star children and any type of child-star in general can become the toxic mess they often do, I just want to point some things out about Knute… well, polar bears in general.

    Forgive me if this doesn’t resonate how I mean it to, but first of all, polar bears are solitary creatures… Knute was never meant to be a social creature. when you watch documentaries on these creatures, when you read research done on them, you see they are this way. Not only that, but males will often hunt females when faced with not enough food. The only time the bears are not solitary? When a mother is raising one or more cubs… but as soon as they are big enough, she leaves them to fend for themselves… to be solitary creatures themselves.

    Knute did have some human characteristics, much as any wild animal will acquire when raised so attached with humans as the parent. I think, honestly, that where it went wrong was in not treating him as what he was… a polar bear. What we see is narcissism was this bear wanting the stimulation that he didn’t receive in any other way.

    What was needed to make him happy was not a lack of socializing, but a need to see lots of possible food available. These people were not adoring fans to him, they were security of the next meals.

    I do hope they autopsy him and find out why he lived such a short life, but I do not believe that he died from a broken heart.


    1. When you socilaize and animal and humanize him as the Berlin Zoo did with Knut and then take away all contact, the animal suffers emotionally. In the wild Polar bears may very well be solitary creatures but when there is baby bear cub, a mother is usually see nearby. Knut’s zookereper was like his mother and he was essentially abandoned by him. Knut could have very well been socilaized with another bear to keep him company but this would have no doubt detracted from Knut and his money making capabilities as the featured animal. Yes, animals like humans can die of a broken heart. We have seen countless cases of it in the media. The autopsy should shed more light on why he died. The zookeeper said in his quote that Knut was healthy all this time. Perhaps he was not well attended to medically or perhaps he was poisoned or perhaps he died of a broken heart and feeling irrelevant.


      1. I agree… I guess my point was also that if he was truly lonely and had managed to acquire that kind of humanity in him, that it makes him that much more of an amazing bear… not only to have survived having no polar bear mother, but to adapt so well to being with humans. I hope zoos and other animal organizations can learn from the few things done right and the many done wrong. Leaving him to die as a cub would have been cruel, but it seems that, in the end, his death was similar.

        Thank you again for your continued insight.


  8. Oh… please add this to my other post.

    I do agree that zoos need to work on being more similar to preserves in how they display their animals to the public. Animals cannot expect to remain natural in the ways they parent without the preservation of them feeling as if they are truly wild to some extent.

    My own local zoo has, in the past few years, done what is hard to do, have their lions mate naturally. Not only this, but the first time, they produced twin cubs… the second time… a litter of four cubs. The caretakers maintained a large distance from the mother and left her to her own devices in caring for them, yet did interfere simply by keeping her out of the display area with the cubs while they were little, until they were big enough that they would have done so in the wild. The habitat is set up to look like their natural habitats (as it is for other animals there)… and the zoo has taken a firm stance since things changed in the seventies into what really helps animals thrive in captivity.

    This story teaches us also that not all zoos have caught the message about how to house these animals in the ways best for them… education is still necessary.


  9. No offense, but you neglected many important details in order to make your story interesting. While I believe many child stars do feel ignored, you neglected to inform readers that Knuts previous caregiver died of a heart attack, meaning the level of care he was given previously changed. This could have had a large impact on his pyschological developement as his maternal and paternal figure disapeared within a fortnight. Furthurmore, you do not consider changes in management or movie companies and how they can affect the working environment of actors. You failure to offer the “entire” story when writing this blog post is astounding and quite saddening.


    1. Knut’s caregiver was told byzoo officials he could no longer go into the bear’s enclosure. The fact that the two were separated becuase of this and his subsequent death may have created many emotional problems for Knut. My account of the story is only “saddening” becuase the bear died.The bear died of a broken heart in my view and that can often lead to loneliness and stroke which was the case.


  10. You should be ashamed of yourself, falsely attributing Knut’s death to heartbreak and loneliness without even bothering to examine the details of his death. In case you didn’t know, there has been a video released of the moment of his death and it clearly shows Knut suffering from some sort of stroke or seizure. He loses muscle control in one of his hind legs, circles repeatedly in confusion for about 10-15 seconds, then begins to drool heavily and collapse in the water where he inevitably drowned. This was CLEARLY a malfunction in the brain and not an emotional one. While I agree that Knut’s mental state was likely unhealthy given the circumstances of his life, it had nothing to do with his death and your sensationalizing of something so tragic for your own ends is pathetic.

    Shame on you.


    1. Mary Leslie- Shame on you ! You should know based on all the reseach out there that heartbreak and loneliness can often resullt in heart disease and stroke. If you bothered to read the blog you would see that I wrote it before the autopsy took place and even stated such. The fact that a four year old bear had a stroke speaks volumes about the neglect in terms of his medical care. If he had a brain malfucntion he needed to have been monitored and given medication, His mental health no doubt contributed to his physical state in my view. The point of the article was to show how he as given so much attention and then literally abandoned as he grew older and the effect it had on him. Knut’s mental state which was clearly unhealthy given the circumstances of his life, I believe had everything to to do with his death. You Mary Leslie should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting that I am sensationalizing of something so tragic for my ends. It is you who is pathetic ( your words) to even think something so false.Put your displaced anger and hostility at Knut’s untimely death where it should be placed – at the Berlin Zoo, not at my blog.

      Shame on you.


      1. Could you point us to some peer reviewed studies that support your claim? I’m interested to read about some of the research that heartbreak and loneliness can result in heart disease and stroke.

        But he had a seizure, so am I missing something?



    2. Stress increases blood pressure. Increased blood pressure creates small tears in the lining of the artery. Blood cells that used to flow smoothly along the artery get caught on the cracks. Blood clots. Clot blocks artery -> stroke. Brain cell death can also cause seizures (like how the death of cells in the heart causes fibrillation/a heart attack).

      Loneliness is stressful. Physical touch, hugs are calming. There was no-one to touch him and make him feel happy, relieve his stress. Losing his only parent and friend was stressful. Going from playing and sleeping all 24-7 to being completely alone is incredibly stressful. Having no social interaction with anyone at all is stressful. Losing even the little company he had behind the glass is stressful. The other employees only grudgingly served him, not like his father who truly loved him.

      I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore. No-one can be happy locked up in a prison, no matter care what you call it.


  11. i’m not sure a bear is smart enough to manipulate what you have decribed. in animal life, a mom rejects a baby that isnt strong enough to survive usually that has something medically wrong with it and the mom senses this. knute and his twin were rejected. his twin died early and knute would have too if not for the human interaction. maybe his medical condition is what finally overcame him. a bear in the wild has no touch or companionship either. it’s silly to think we as humans could’ve prevented knutes death by touching him. he’d have killed anyone who tried.


      1. I agree with you, Dr. Glass, 100%!!! No matter what is considered the norm for a polar bear (or any animal) in the wild, this case is different because Knut was NOT raised in his normal habitat.

        I just learned about Dian Fossey and her study of gorillas in my anthropology class and before she was murdered, she admitted that her studies had acclimated the gorillas to humans and consequently destroyed their natural habitat and way of life.

        Excellent analysis!!


  12. This zoo is 100% culpable for the exploitation and susbstandard care they delivered to poor Knut. The zoo even had the audacity to deny that Knut would experience any grief after his beloved surrogate parent died.

    Berlin Zoo categorically ruled out suggestions that Knut would experience feelings of loss as a result of his keeper’s passing. “It won’t be a problem for him,” said Klaus Lüdcke, a Berlin zoologist, “Knut has been looked after by a whole team – and for him the most important person is the one who brings the food.”

    But what I read today has me entirely infuriated. Shame on this zoo’s management team. To stuff Knut is to abuse the feelings of millions of Knut fans all over the world. Knut deserves a worthy and respectful burial.

    After the autopsy is completed, Knut may get to live on in Berlin. There has been talk by the Natural History Museum in Berlin to stuff Knut and put him on display so his fans can continue to visit him. Museum officials said they have thrown around this idea, however nothing is finalized. While some fans would welcome Knut’s continued presence in the public eye, others aren’t so keen on this idea. The zoo set up an online condolence book so fans could share their feelings, and some shared exactly how they felt about Knut being stuffed and put on display. Most were supportive of such an idea but some found this idea abhorant.


  13. Dr. Glass,
    While I do enjoy and respect most of your entries, I believe you are very wrong on this one. This broken-heart theroy is nothing more than conjecture. You really missed a good opportunity to talk about the unfortunate truth that too many face because of epilepsy. It’s called SUDEP.

    The bear died from drowning caused by a seizure. It would have been much more beneficial to for you to have raised awareness about how very deadly epilepsy can be. It just so happens that Epilepsy Awareness Day was just this past Friday.

    Sadly many people die every year from drowning during a seizure.


    1. Technically Kn ut may have dids of neurological issues but the fact that these issues weren’t detected speaks volumes to me. He was the zoo’s cash cow- (cash bear) and that appeared to be all they were concerned about. Nothing can convince me that this bear did not suffer from emotional issues which lead to his demise. Heart attacks and stokes and cancers and all types of ailments come about from stres as we have discovered. One of the biggest stresses is loneliness, lack of love and affection. This can happen in a bear as well . RIP Knut!


      1. If poor Knut did have a seizure disorder and if it wasn’t detected, you are right, that does speak volumes. However, we don’t know if the seizure that precipitated his sudden death was a one time event or not. Hopefully, we will find out if they had records of previous seizures or not. If there are a lack of records, that too will speak volumes.

        You are right to draw lessons from what happened to poor Knut to exploited children on TV.

        I enjoy your blog, thanks for writing it!


  14. Knut the bear died from a tonic-clonic seizure. He may have inherited epilepsy from his father. Epilepsy is caused by a brain abnormality, not loneliness.


  15. Even though Knut technically died of drowning because he kept walking in circles due to the encephalitis – a virus he suffered from, I believe that he still died from neglect and from a broken heart.

    He was obviously neglected by the zoo’s officials and the vets who needed to conduct regular physical examinations on him.

    Had they done so they would have seen that something was wrong with him and treated him medically. Therefore I hold the Berlin Zoo completely responsible for his death.

    When he was no longer cute and cuddly and adorable and able to bring in hoards of visitors and millions of dollars, they ignored him. He was deprived of social interaction and deprived of proper medical care.

    I am not a fan of zoo’s and Knut’s death validates why I feel this way.


  16. I will give you many hugs if I make it to heaven Jesus loves you little bear He Loves you so much you will be with Him forever in Eternity in Paradise


  17. Sad what we humans do for money. Knut is an angel that left a huge impression on millions of hearts! Even when he got older! Love you forever Knut, may you find the joy and peace in heaven. God Bless.


  18. Knut was an amazing bear for sure, but it seems all his trouble starts right after his careegiver was removed. I do believe animals/humans have a bond especially the in this situation.If we were suddenly abandoned like Knut, we of course would have a reaction. Knut was lonely, isolated, and bored for sure.I don’t know why he never had a mate in his compound, just because polar bears aren’t social, doesn’t mean he didn’t need friendship of some sort. I believe the encephalitis killed him and nothing else. He still got attention and was not ignored, or bullied whatever. Let him RIP and remember all the good things he taught us. 9-1-12 Detroit,Mi.


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