Funny Cats Videos Biography
Unless you've been living under a rock, you all know Knut (pronounced 'ka-noot'): the sweet journal of his cute, cuddly baby frosty-bear face - his four short years of life as a resident and visitor magnet at the Berlin Zoo - is resplendent on the 'net. Google 'Knut' - just his name, no further keyword necessary - and you'll be rewarded with hours of smile-generating, awwww-inducing photos of the precocious Polar Bear.
The controversy began with the rejection by his mother at birth, followed by his being snapped up as the tiny helpless, almost-furless infant-cub he was (in the wild, it is common for the mother bear to eat her cub(s) if she has, for reasons only a new mother Polar bear understands, determined her offspring either too weak to survive or if she is simply a first-time, utterly-confused and annoyed mother) and given over to zoo keeper Thomas Dörflein to hand raise.
There's much more to learn, and I'm being overly-simplistic here because my point doesn't need the particular details (visit WikiPedia for the best, in-a-nutshell synopsis of little Knut's life, his caretakers, and the controversy that swirled around him around his 1st birthday).
Of course there are always those who choose to stand for one extreme or the other.
I experienced a childhood not unlike that: you do the one thing, and are chided for doing it wrong. So you do it the other way, and are scolded for doing it wrong. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
An animal rights activist started the spark, publicly denouncing 1 year old Knut as a 'psychopath' of a bear, a casualty of bad judgement, basically decrying Knut's 'spoiled' and 'un-bear-like' life in the zoo as tragic, that he would have been better off had the zoo allowed nature to take its course (allowing the cub(s) to starve and fail, and/or be eaten by their mother after rejection) instead of his current 'spoofhood', the emptiness of his 'bear life', as it was certain Knut would never have a mate, cubs of his own, etc., as he had absolutely no knowledge or experience of 'being a Polar bear' to live by.
This accompanied by shots of a wet and dirty 1 year old Knut rolling in joyful abandon on the rocky poolside of his habitat.
Sure, Knut had become the new staple of pop culture, the cutie of the moment, and merchandising had become a huge enterprise (stuffed toys, snacks, coloring books, not to mention souvenirs, all selling like hotcakes not only in the zoo gift shop but worldwide), verging on exploitation (Vanity Fair magazine shoot with celeb Leo DeCaprio, the subject of songs, weekly TV shows, DVD's, and yes, a motion picture, etc, etc.).
For me, the surprisingly-profound cherry atop the media blitz was this: a book (published in Germany by Ravensburger on July 26, 2007; US publishing company Scholastic released the English version in the United States in November of the same year; rights to the book were also sold to publishers in Japan, England, Mexico, China, and Italy over the next few years) entitled Knut: How one little polar bear captivated the world.
For me, that title says it all.
Knut. The little Polar Bear that, indeed, captivated the world.
Because for all the fuss and holler over whether it was cruel (or not) to have rescued Knut from certain death to let him grow up in a way no Polar Bear ever would, in the wild, I believe Knut had a purpose that embraced his unorthodox cub-hood, a destiny that superceded all the ideas of natural vs. unnatural, morally right vs. ethically wrong.
Regardless of how 'unnatural' it was that he fawn and climb all over his non-bear 'mama', Thomas Dörflein, the man who raised him as a cub to a little after his 1st birthday (and who, sadly, died after suffering a heart attack in 2008), that he pose and tumble for the thousands of human visitors to his habitat, that Knut was so comfortable with the constant click and flash of cameras he seemed to be addicted to humans and their attention - regardless. Knut served the world a far greater purpose than he would have, had he gown up as a mother-approved, albeit captive, but more 'beary' bear, or had he been ultimately blessed to have been a Polar Bear born in and living in the wild country and glaciers and ice of the arctic, along with the approximately 20,000 other 'natural' Polar Bears alive in the world today - all of them no-less important, but nameless and faceless to the world.
See, there is a tragedy happening as I write. Polar bears are slowly - more rapidly now, however - losing their battle to survive, as climate changes, ice melt, are destroying their natural habitat.and resulting in their suffering starvation and death, in massive numbers yearly compared to the cycles of centuries past. The numbers of Polar Bears living in the wild are in the neighborhood of 20,000 to 30,000 today, but are expected to face a 30% drop in just the next decade! Will it be THEN, when there are perhaps 10,000 Polar Bears in existence, or less, that the humans of the world realize something needs to be done? It might be too late.
So one asks the blunt question: would it have been better for Knut to have been born into the iffy-ness of a 'natural' life in the arctic? Maybe. Was it better that he lived a spoiled, pampered and media-circus life at the zoo? Maybe, maybe not. For a few year, however, he was safe.
And from all of those snapshots, those Kodak moments that relayed his every day's experiences to the world, he appeared to be healthy and happy, if happy could be something an animal can be described as (I think so, but scientists are still out on that one).
But most of all, I would answer the question, instead, with another question...
The world knows who Knut is (was).
The world knows more about the plight of this threatened animal, and the world knows something needs to be done.
And, the world, people of the world, have been giving, in the name of Knut, to wildlife organizations, donating money and time to efforts to impact a change that will protect the Polar bear from extinction, all things that would not have come to be had those people not seen a particularly-precious webshot of that fluffy white, black-eyed teddy-bear-cute Polar Bear cub face.
How many Monday mornings were brightened, for millions of people, with a quick shared peek at the latest Knut pic? Did positive actions not take place, as a result?
I think yes. In Knut's case, his 'unbearlike' existence was a small price to pay for the caretaking, human attention and over-marketing that took place over the course of his short 4 years because Knut was serving a far greater purpose, in a fashion, than that of his wild and natural counterparts.
Knut was an ambassador.
He had been born into the position of mascot, of a 'face to a name', even a product, but representative of something great, no less.
Now think of what a LOSS this world would have suffered, having NOT had this wonderful little cub in their media-laden lives.
If one little hand-raised, 'psychopath', human-addicted Polar bear cub can accomplish so much in such a short time, then I think that validates the reasons by which he was rescued as a cub.
On March 19, 2011, Knut was, as often, romping on the banks and splashing in the water of his enclosure. WItnesses say he seemed fine one minute, then jumped in the water, than there was short spasm and he died.
It may be weeks before anything definitive is reported, as to why this young Polar Bear simply 'shut off', like the flicker and zap of a lightbulb going out, his reason for dying...
But Knut most certainly did have a wonderful reason for LIVING, exactly way he did live ...
Because of Knut and his unnatural existence, he introduced the world to the plight of his natural-living counterparts.
And I fail to see the 'wrong' in that.