Berlin Zoo tells loyal Knut fans to get stuffed

Plans to put the dead polar bear's carcass on display have angered followers worldwide

The angry protesters, wearing T-shirts and badges emblazoned with furry images of their dead hero, have turned the entrance of Berlin Zoo into a shrine of remembrance decked out with candles, photographs, and flowers.

Emotions were already running high in the German capital over last month's sudden death of Knut, the world's most famous polar bear. But now officials have announced plans to stuff Knut's carcass and put it on display in the Berlin Natural History Museum, causing them to boil over into rage.

"Knut simply does not deserve this fate," complained Jochen Kolbe, 31, the leader of a growing campaign to stop the bear being stuffed. "Knut is not only a polar bear; he is a friend and a family member. If somebody dies in your family, do you want to see him stuffed in a museum?"

The idea to have Knut stuffed and put on public display were conceived by Berhard Blaszkiewitz, the Berlin Zoo director ultimately responsible for turning the polar bear into a global celebrity, earning millions in visitors fees alone. Knut was rejected by his mother when he was born in 2006, and the zoo arranged for him to be hand-reared by his keeper, Thomas Dörflein. Watched by the world's television cameras, Knut was played Elvis songs on his keeper's guitar and nurtured with helpings of cod liver oil.

Before his unexpected death after a brain seizure last month, world fame had put Knut on the front cover of Vanity Fair and inspired Knut fan clubs across the globe. Mr Dörflein died of a heart attack in 2008, adding further poignancy to the already emotionally charged story.

Scores of "Stop Knut being stuffed" protesters have been gathering outside the zoo since plans to hand his remains to a taxidermist were announced late last month. Hundreds more have joined the protest on line.

"We should be allowed to remember Knut as he was," complained Anna Tonnemacher, 36, a Berlin resident, "To stuff him and put him on display would be both tasteless and degrading."

Mr Blaszkiewitz was yesterday adamant that his plans would be realised. "The problem is that people take their human feelings and put them into animals," he said.

"After Knut's death there were all these overwhelming emotions. That's OK for humans, but in my opinion it is not OK for animals. This is just a polar bear, a special polar bear, but a polar bear all the same."