Cross-eyed opossum capturing the hearts of Germans
By Eric Kelsey
BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - She's middle-aged, gray-haired and stays up all night. Still, Heidi the cross-eyed opossum is Germany's biggest media sensation, and she has not even made her debut at the Leipzig Zoo.
Yet Heidi appears to be the next in a line of animal celebrities in Germany. The 2-1/2-year-old opossum has a growing Facebook following pushing 80,000 fans, sparked a popular song on YouTube and will soon star as a plush toy. However, the public will not get their first glimpse of the opossum until July, when the zoo opens its tropical wildlife exhibit.
The zoo had no inkling of what a cause-celebre the cross-eyed opossum would become when Heidi along with her sister, Naira, and a male opossum arrived from a zoo in Denmark in May.
"The Heidi sensation was surprising and unplanned," said Leipzig zoo spokeswoman Maria Saegebarth. "It's great that there has been a lot interest, but we had nothing to do with the media hype."
Heidi first appeared in Germany's mass-circulation newspaper Bild last month. The zoo has no plans to change its upcoming tropical exhibit because of Heidi's ticket draw.
"We understand that Heidi has become so popular and that people will want to see her," said Saegebarth. "But that will not change the zoo's strategy with the exhibit -- she's one animal of many."
Still, Heidi is the most recent example of animal celebrities in Germany in recent years, which includes Knut the polar bear in Berlin and the recently deceased Paul the octopus in Oberhausen, western Germany.
Knut became internationally famous as a cub when the Berlin zoo hand-reared him after he was rejected by his mother in December 2006. The zoo earned 1 million euros ($1.30 million) along from marketing Knut products in 2007. Continued...