Knut the polar bear is back. Though not necessarily in a form that will please his fans. A model of the beloved bear — whose antics melted hearts world-wide before his untimely death in 2011 — will go on display at the Natural History Museum in Berlin this weekend.
The museum has faced resistance to the idea of putting Knut’s body on display. “When someone dies in your family, I think you don’t want him stuffed in a museum,” said the leader of the movement to prevent the taxidermy of Knut, Joche Kolbe, during a protest in 2011.
But the Natural History museum says this is no conventional taxidermy. “It’s important to point out that we have not stuffed Knut,” said museum spokeswoman Gesine Steiner, according to the Guardian. “Rather, this is a plastic form, true to the original and covered with Knut’s very own fur.”
Visitors will be able to see the model Knut – replete with glass eyes — for free between February 16 and March 15. Then he will disappear into the museum archives until 2014, where he will reappear as part of an exhibition on animal welfare and climate change, reports German newspaper Bild.
Knut rose to fame in 2006 after his mother Tosca abandoned him and Berlin Zoo keeper Thomas Dörflein took over her parental role. Knut soon began drawing record numbers of visitors to the Zoo, who flocked to see him play with his keeper and to buy Knut-themed merchandise. Dörflein and Knut were inseparable until 2007, when the zoo decided the bear had grown too large to play safely with his surrogate dad. The next year, Dörflein tragically died of a heart attack. Knut — who was known for his special affection for croissants — passed away in March 2011 after suffering brain damage and drowning in front of zoo visitors.