Knut's Surrogate Dad Dead at 44
Police doubt foul play in death of Dörflein, long ill
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2008 3:09 PM CDT
Knut, all grown up in a recent photo.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Thomas Dörflein, the Berlin zookeeper who raised polar bear Knut after his mother rejected him, was found dead in his apartment today, Der Spiegel reports. He was 44. Authorities said there was no evidence of foul play; Dörflein had been very sick. The keeper’s contact with Knut was cut off almost a year ago when the cub became too big to safely play with.

Dörflein is survived by his partner and three children. He stepped in and took over care for Knut in late 2006, and spent many weeks in a cage with the cub. The two seemed to have a special bond, and became international celebrities together. Dörflein was given an award for his surrogacy last year. Police say an investigation is ongoing.