BERLIN Knut, the hand-reared polar bear who captured Germans' hearts before his early death in 2011, returned to his adoring Berlin public on Friday as a life-sized model bearing the animal's real fur.
Knut will stand for a month in the entrance foyer of the city's natural history museum, which has modified its entrance for the anticipated rush of visitors, a museum spokeswoman said.
The museum is keen to stress that Knut has not been stuffed. Rather, a replica of the bear was made, based on Knut's skeleton, in one of his favourite poses, and this was covered with the creature's pelt, in a procedure known as dermoplasty.
The model has expressive eyes and a damp nose, museum director Johannes Vogel said.
"I think people will accept Knut, because this is a very dignified model.. People who knew Knut very well while he was alive recognise their Knut here again."
Knut was the star attraction of Berlin zoo during his four-year life. His mother rejected him as a new-born leaving the fluffy white cub to be reared by a zookeeper. Thousands of visitors queued for hours to watch him frolic in his enclosure, and he inspired a dizzying array of merchandise.
Other German zoos have tried in vain to create celebrity animals. None have ever come close to matching Knut's fame.
The bear died suddenly of an epileptic fit in March 2011. (Reporting by Reuters television; writing by Alexandra Hudson, editing by Paul Casciato)