BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin Zoo denied media allegations on Tuesday that Knut the celebrity polar bear cub was responsible for the sudden demise of one of its older attractions, a 22-year-old panda who was found dead in her cage.
Just four days after the euphoria over the debut of three-and-a-half-month-old “Cuddly Knut”, the mysterious death of Chinese-born Yan Yan stole the headlines in Tuesday’s German newspapers.
Top-selling Bild reported the influx of visitors to the zoo -- about 30,000 a day -- could have stressed the black and white bear, who spent much of her time lying on her back chomping at bamboo shoots.
“Lots of people gave up on seeing Knut because of the long queues, so they went to see Yan Yan instead. She seemed intimidated and anxious,” wrote the paper, suggesting Yan Yan could have had a heart attack.
Berlin Zoo denied any link.
“I can say with absolute certainty that there was no connection between Yan Yan’s death and Knut,” said a spokesman.
“Our keepers were stunned. The sad thing is that because of the excitement around Knut, she died alone and no one immediately noticed that she had passed away.”
The zoo kept the lifeless panda in cold storage overnight and will conduct an autopsy to establish the cause of death.
Yan Yan, Chinese for “The Beautiful One”, was brought to Berlin in 1995 from Beijing and was a star years before Knut the polar bear was born. She leaves behind 28-year-old Bao Bao, the world’s oldest known panda, according to the zoo spokesman.