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Knut The Polar Bear Dead: Famous Animal Dies In German Zoo (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

| 03/19/11 12:31 PM ET | AP

BERLIN (AP) -- 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.

(Scrolls down for photos and video of Knut the polar bear)

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.

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

"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.

Check out some of our favorite photos and video of Knut the polar bear below.

Picture taken 28 March 2007 shows Berlin
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Berlin, GERMANY: Picture taken 28 March 2007 shows Berlin's new star polar bear cub Knut playing at his enclosure of the Berlin zoo. Knut, who survived rejection by his mother, has become a marketing phenomenon in Germany. Thousands of extra visitors flock to Berlin zoo to get a glimpse of the little bear -- and many take cuddly toy versions of Knut home with them. AFP PHOTO DDP/MARCUS BRANDT GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images)
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