Knut, the world’s most famous polar bear, died unexpectedly after drowning in his enclosed pool.
There were over 600 visitors watching as Knut suffered from painful cramps and struggled to make his way to the pool, his left leg trailing. He stayed still in the water and children screamed as they realized he wasn’t going to come back out.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Knut the polar bear)
The four-year-old polar bear had suffered an unfortunate series of events since he was abandoned at birth by his mother. He was adopted by zookeepers in Berlin, and his main caregiver, Thomas Dorflein, who camped at the zoo to feed him every two hours, died in 2008.
Knut gradually developed encephalitis, an irritation and swelling of the brain. Animal rights activists attribute his death to depression, insisting that wild animals should not be domesticated. They say he was turned into a “commodity” and traumatized from being kept in captivity. Surely he would have been happier in the Arctic, surrounded by ice, water, and best of all, seals.
Knut became a celebrity, appearing in photo shoots with photographers like Annie Leibovitz. But they do say that fame doesn’t bring happiness. All we know is that the cuddly fellow will certainly be missed.
More on TIME.com: Did negligence kill Knut the polar bear? )