The taxidermists are enthralled, not least because their skills are about to be given the sort of show they could only dream about. From this weekend, Berlin's natural history museum is to exhibit Knut – the city's late-lamented and once world-famous polar bear, who collapsed and drowned in his zoo enclosure two years ago after a brain haemorrhage.
Knut won international renown after his mother rejected him in 2006 and he had to be raised by his keeper, who died of a heart attack two years later. The bear attracted millions to Berlin Zoo and at the height of his fame appeared on the front of Vanity Fair. This time however, the ursine star will be appearing stuffed and glass-eyed in the clinical surroundings of a natural history museum. "We are, after all, a scientific establishment," said a spokeswoman.
But not everyone is happy about Knut's second coming. When the plan to stuff the bear's carcass and put it on display was first announced it provoked emotional protests from fans, who said the idea was degrading. "When a close friend of yours dies, you don't have him stuffed and put in a glass box," argued one protester, who took part in a "Stop Knut Being Stuffed" demonstration outside the zoo.
Fear of protests may be one of the reasons why Berlin's natural history museum has decided to put Knut on show for only a month to start with. The stuffed bear will no doubt be put under guard. He is not scheduled to go on permanent display until 2014.