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Photos: Knut the polar bear

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  1. Visitors watch polar bear cub Knut in the Berlin zoo, March 24, 2007. Knut, the polar bear who became a global celebrity as a cute cub, died in at the Berlin zoo March 19, 2011 at the age of four. Knut, the first polar bear born at the zoo for more than 30 years, was rejected by his mother and fed instead by his keeper Thomas Doerflein. Thousands of visitors came to watch keeper and cub playing together, and Knut's fame soon spread around the world. The cause of death was unknown and he will undergo an autopsy. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Knut has his first public appearance with his keeper Thomas Doerflein in the Berlin zoo, March 23, 2007. (Herbert Knosowski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Knut playing with a blanket at his enclosure of the Berlin zoo, March 28, 2007. (Marcus Brandt / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Knut plays with a foot of his minder Thomas Doerflein at the zoo in Berlin, June 11, 2007. (Marcus Brandt / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Knut eats his one-year birthday "cake" at the Berlin zoo Dec. 5, 2007, in Berlin, Germany. Zoo officials celebrated Knut's one year birthday by inviting the public and the media to watch Knut eat his cake, whose ingredients included rice, potatoes, carrots and a whole fish. (Anita Bugge / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Knut is refelcted in a window as he takes a bath Jan. 11, 2008 in his enclosure at the zoo in Berlin. (Axel Schmidt / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Knut takes a bath in his outdoor enclosure at the zoo in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 6, 2009. (Rainer Jensen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Knut swims in common duckweed at the zoo of Berlin, Sept. 14, 2009. (Rainer Jensen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Knut, right, and Giovanna, a female polar bear on loan from the Munich zoo, play tug of war as they swim in their enclosure at Berlin's Zoologischer Garten zoo Jan. 8. (John Macdougall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Polar bears Knut, left, and Giovanna cuddle at their enclosure at the Berlin zoo on March 4, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Knut interacts with with six-year-old visitor Nane and her cushy polar bear "Knut" at the Tiergarten zoo in Berlin on Oct. 19. German newspapers reported today that the world famous polar bear is being bullied by his fellow polar bears in their enclosure in the Berlin zoological garden. (Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Knut rolls in the snow in his enclosure at Berlin's Zoologischer Garten zoo, Jan. 8, 2010. (John Macdougall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Knut stands in his enclosure, March 26, 2010. (Action Press / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Knut yawns in his enclosure at the zoo in Berlin, Dec. 10, 2010. (Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Children stand in front of polar bear Knut's enclosure at the Berlin zoo on March 21, 2011. Germany was in stunned mourning after the sudden and premature death of Knut, Berlin's world-famous polar bear, who died on March 19. Zoo visitors signed a condolence book, left notes, flowers and candles in tribute to the beloved bear. (Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Image: Knut
Barbara Sax  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Knut walking through his enclosure at the Zoologischer Garten zoo in Berlin on June 17, 2010.
updated 3/19/2011 3:54:41 PM ET 2011-03-19T19:54:41

Berlin's beloved polar bear Knut, who rose to stardom when he was hand-raised by zoo keepers after being rejected by his mother rejected at birth, died on Saturday, a zoo official said.

The world-famous bear died alone in his compound, bear keeper Heiner Kloes told The Associated Press.

"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."

A post mortem will be conducted on Monday to try pinpoint his cause of death, he said.

Between 600 and 700 people were at Knut's compound and saw the four-year-old bear die, German news agency DAPD reported.

Photoblog: More images of Germany's most famous bear

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit called Knut's death "awful."

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"We all held him so dearly," Wowereit told daily newspaper B.Z. "He was the star of the Berlin zoos."

The polar bear rose to global fame after he was rejected by his mother when he was born in captivity on December 5, 2006. The fluffy cub was shown to the public 15 weeks later, and attendance at the zoo has roughly doubled since, officials said.

The resulting "Knutmania" led to a 2007 Vanity Fair cover with actor Leonardo DiCaprio shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, a film and plush likenesses. Though the zoo has never released exact numbers, Knut merchandise including postcards, key chains, candy and stuffed Knuts have brought in hundreds of thousands of euros.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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