Knut’s zookeeper has passed away…

Image3031583g_2According to AP Reports and CBS News, the zookeeper who hand-reared Knut the abandoned polar bear has passed away. No cause of death has been revealed. From the story:

"With his burly build, beard and ponytail, Doerflein was a distinctivefigure at the side of the growing bear. He nursed young Knut in hisarms behind closed doors and wrestled with him after the bear grew oldenough to play.

When Knut made his public debut in March 2007, Doerflein was at hisside. They started a daily performance for the thousands of visitorswho flocked to see the bear at his outdoor enclosure."

Barooooooooooooooooo! [Bear crying sound]

Let’s take a look at Thomas Dorflein’s legacy in one of the BEST Knut vids ever…



  1. 😦

  2. What an extraordinary opportunity he had with Knut, and for being able to work as a zookeeper for all those years. Godspeed, Thomas.

  3. God must’ve needed a helper to care for all the furry, feathered and scaly friends that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge…

    Rest well, dear sir. Millions of animal lovers, and all polar bears, mourn your passing.

  4. There’s a special place in heaven for people like him!

  5. (the post that was briefly published right after this one will return later… moment of silence, y’know)

  6. momof2kitties says:

    Awww…Is Knut now old enough to be ok with out his human helper? So sad!!


  7. what sad news! I can hear Knut crying.

  8. So sad! He was so young. And I like looking him as much as looking at Knut 🙂

  9. (;_;)

  10. So sad.
    He did such a wonderful job with Knut. :/

  11. Rest in Peace, Polar Bear Daddy. You’ve left quite a legacy.

    Big smooshy hugs to Knut, who surely is shedding big polar bear tears for his Papa.


  12. My deepest condolences to the loved ones and most of all, of course, to Knut.

  13. Very touching indeed…I cried…

  14. Cute AND sad. 😦


  15. Baroooooo indeed. What a lovely man. I don’t know that I would call him “burly” though.

  16. Such a shame, to pass so young. Do you think Knut knows his person has passed on? Condolences to Thomas’ family, his zoo family and to Knut. They have all lost a wonderful human today.

  17. Boomer's Babysitter says:

    Try this one, peeps… Barroooooo! indeed!

  18. Totalee Puppy says:

    “A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to
    help…” Thomas gave his all for Knut, for other animals, and for all of us
    who care so deeply. Thank you, Thomas, for all you have done for animals and for mankind…

  19. Yitzysmommie says:

    Oh Barooooooo. We’ll all miss you, Thomas Doerflein. Thanks for the wunnerful job with Knut. I love the idea of you being at the Rainbow Bridge, meeting all our furry fuzzy scaley spikey and finny friends….
    RIP, Herr Doerflein.

  20. Im sure he was very happy to take care of Knut and other animals until the day he died. Hug your family and pets everyday, you never know! 🙂

  21. What a gentle soul.

  22. If any nuffers even THINK of trying to post, I hope The Management whaps you like a Scottish fold IT kitteh whaps a recalcitrant printer.

    I hadn’t seen this video before: very touching from the gently wielded bebeh’s hairbrush to the tucking in with soft toy and sheepskin, avec pinups of big bears.


  23. (hi Dub1)

  24. AlbertaGirl says:

    He put pictures of Knut’s family in the ‘crib’ for Knut to look at! That right there pushed me over the edge from ‘sad’ to ‘weepy’.

  25. baroooooooooo….

  26. Dexter Fishmore says:

    I’ll pour out a 40 for Doerflein tonight.

    Mourn him ’til we join him….

  27. Such sad news. 😦

  28. I hear they needed someone to help at the Rainbow Bridge.

  29. Way to go on turning Knut into a raving psycopath.

  30. He is in heaven tonight, surrounded by beautiful, grateful animals to keep him warm.

    G-d bless such a kind, caring man.

  31. You know, he won worldwide fame for his caring and nurturing, and helped bring delight to millions of people. Not a bad legacy when you think about it.

  32. warrior rabbit says:

    Karen G, I agree ‘burly’ isn’t exactly apt.

    What a generous, devoted soul. So young! Too young. Godspeed, Thomas, and warm wishes to your loved ones, bipeds and quadripeds alike.

  33. God Speed.

  34. Barooooooo….baroooooo.

  35. Good speed, good man. Thank you for reminding us of the important things in this life.

  36. OMG SO SAD. and so unexpected. BarOOOOoooooo…

  37. That poor little bear isn’t having the best of luck in this lifetime.

  38. Vielen dank, Herr Doerflein.


    The German article says he’s been ill for a long time. He was visiting someone, when he suddenly clutched his chest and sank to the floor. But no more is known about the cause of his death at the moment.

  40. :,-((((

  41. Barooooo!

  42. I’m sure Knut will miss his “mummy” very much. What a shame.

  43. Why am I welling up!?

  44. This man’s impact will last far longer than his too-short life. He inspired the world with his premium brand of interspecies snorgling. And by caring for Knut – who became a world star – he gave us a lovable symbol for the plight of all polar bear in the wild.

    If the polar bears are to be saved – Knut and Thomas certainly deserve a portion of the credit.

    I’m so happy the powers-that-be saw fit to honor him while he was still alive to realize how appreciated he was.

  45. so many of us would dream of having the opportunity to have had the experience he did – what a wonderful time that must have been for him. Thoughts and prayers to his family!!

  46. 😦 – such a good soul.

  47. May Thomas rest in peace in the great kingdom of animals on the other side.

    This man is what a true HERO is–not what is held before our society.

    He put himself in the background to ensure the survival of one bear cub. Remember PETA wanted Knut euthanized, at first.
    If not for Mr. Doerflein and his care, we would not have had this wonderful bear bringing smiles worldwide.

  48. Floyd's Mom says:

    Baroooooooo 😦

    Many thoughts to his all of his family – human and bear – my heart is breaking for Knut. Like Redbone said, I’m sure he has a wonderful job at the rainbow bridge.

  49. SO SAD!!!

    Go cheer yourself up by watching this Knut video . . . tiny polar bear proshness, lil’ kid singing in German, need I say more??

  50. Latest news from Germany.

    The state prosecutor has ordered a post mortem to rule out any possibility of murder. Not that anybody expected that, but it was a move to forestall any speculation by the yellowpress. In the course of that it turned out, that Doerflein died of a heart attack.

    In German obituaries “nach langer, schwerer Krankheit” (after a long and harsh illness) usually codifies that the family has expected the death. That code was used in Doerfleins obits.

  51. How sad! May you pass peacefully in to the next life Herr Doerflein. My thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. His life touched so many that did not know him, I can only imagine how deeply his loss is felt by those that did.

  52. Poor Knut! Mr. Doerflein was such a hero and such a wonderful animal caretaker. He was a unique and special person.

    And to Bucky, it wasn’t PETA, and the supposed call to euthanize Knut was made ironically, by a German animal-rights activist, to make a point about something that was going on in Germany at the time regarding their animal protection act. ( )

    Sorry to take time away from the point of the thread to say that, but this is a misconception that’s been associated with Knut from the beginning, and it’s really frustrating that it keeps being perpetuated.

  53. And I should add, he didn’t even call for Knut’s euthanasia, even ironically. My wording was poor.

  54. That’s so sad! He’s so young!

  55. Condolences to his family x

  56. Thank you Lu for posting that link–I had always thought there had to be more to the story. Looking online it seems like there is also controversy over the fact that the zoo is trying to wean Knut off of human contact…. Does anyone have a link to an *objective* discussion of what’s going on? The stuff I have seen has been very hateful and reactionary, on both sides of the issue.

    As someone who works with animals for a living, Thomas Dorflein was/is a huge inspiration to me! He will be missed.

  57. Awwww, that´s sad. But he had a chance to spend so much time with such a beautiful little polar bear guy, a chance that most of us will never have. I would die happy, probably. I hope he did too, bless him.

  58. RIP, Mr. Doerflein, and thank you for bringing little Knut into our lives.

  59. so sad! I saw this in the news yesterday and got all teary. what an awesome man he was… God bless him.

  60. I’m thinking this should have been the only post on CO today. It would have been a fitting tribute to a man who embodied what many, if not most, of the readers and posters here respect: an appreciation of and love for animals and their precious place in our lives. No doubt there will a great welcome on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. No tears there, although many here. RIP.

  61. Ohhh how sad 😥

  62. I’m sure he and Steve Irwin are hanging out right now, swapping bear stories.

  63. Hi from Germany,

    today’s news say Mr. Dörflein died of a heart attack. He was diagnosed with cancer this year but I read on Google news that he was cured.

    Another article says Knut’s fine. He’s in an age now which makes him see every other male – bear, human – as a rival and it wasn’t possible to keep the friendship going.

  64. Barbara, DK says:

    Thomas Dörflein, you will be dearly missed all over the world!

  65. Pandamonium says:

    Awww… ='(

    I’ll pray for Thomas tonight…
    Even though he might not need it anymore coz he is already in heaven…

    And right back at ya “Ruth”
    Some people say animals don’t have souls but every creature made by God has the right to go to heaven! Hope Mr. Thomas is happy with all those cuddly animals..,