Curse of fame strikes again as earless rabbit is crushed

Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 00:00

THE CURSE of German animal celebrity struck again this week when a baby rabbit born without ears was accidentally killed by a television cameraman.

The 17-day-old rabbit Til, born with a genetic defect that left him without floppy ears, was being filmed at his home in a Saxon zoo when his career was cut short.

Animal carer Juliana held up the 15cm ball of fur to the camera as part of an interview, then put him down on the hay-covered pen floor. When the cameraman finished filming, he took a step back – and stood right on Til.

“He had hidden under the hay, I didn’t see a thing,” the cameraman told the Bild tabloid.

Zoo director Uwe Dempewolf expressed shock yesterday at his new star’s untimely demise. “I simply can’t believe it, he was so sweet, it’s a terrible tragedy.”

The rabbit was named Til after German film star Til Schweiger, who directed and starred in the box-office hit Keinohrhasen – and its sequel – about a stuffed rabbit with no ears.

The zoo was hoping Schweiger would become Til’s foster father in a bid to repeat the marketing magic of Knut the polar bear.

Knut pulled in massive crowds to Berlin zoo after his birth in 2006. But a year ago, aged just four, he suffered a seizure and drowned in his enclosure pool.

The next sensation in this nation of animal lovers was Heidi the cross-eyed opossum. After taking YouTube by storm and inspiring a line of soft toys, Heidi was put to sleep by Leipzig zoo before her third birthday last year, suffering from an unspecified medical condition.

And who could forget Paul the oracle octopus of Oberhausen? He successfully picked World Cup 2010 match winners before dying of natural causes, also aged two.

Animal lovers, united in grief, said the Til tragedy had striking similarities to the sad tale of Cinderella the squirrel. Unlike her fairytale namesake, the only ball the poor creature ever saw was that of a television reporter’s foot, crushing her to death in 2005.