Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cross-eyed opossum captures hearts in Germany

Cross-eyed opossum Heidi sits in her enclosure at Leipzig zoo in eastern Germany. Heidi, who is not yet even on public display, has become an Internet hit, winning more than 65,000 "friends" on the social networking website Facebook.

Das Opossum = die Beutelratte
cross-eyed = schielend

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) January 11 2011 by Eric Kelsey

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.

Paul the octopus was an international sensation this past summer when he correctly predicted the results of each of Germany's World Cup soccer matches and accurately tipped Spain to top the Netherlands in the final.

Demand for information about Heidi has been so high the zoo has dedicated a portion of its website to answering Heidi-related questions, such as why she is cross-eyed.

Zoo officials believe that Heidi's crossed eyes could come from a poor diet when she was young, causing fat deposits to develop behind her eyes -- neither of which causes her pain or poses a health risk, the zoo said.

Poor vision is not much of a problem for Heidi, the zoo said. As a nocturnal animal, opossum's rely heavily on their sense of smell instead of their sight to get around.


  1. Heidi is so cute! I think i will go to Berlin just to see her! she has way more facebook friends than me!

  2. she's so cute, I wish I had that many facebook freinds!


  3. This is really cute. I wonder if they will ever know for sure what caused it to be cross-eyed. I dont think any other animal will have this many facebook friends

  4. Das shielend Beuteratte ist sehr kuhl. Es macht Spass.

  5. So cute! I find it funny that Heidi even has a facebook. She sure is popular. I heard about Paul the octupus i just didn't know that he was from Germany. I'll have to look for the song that Heidi is in on YouTube. I'm sure it is very cute.

  6. That's the most adorable animal. It's weird that her eyes could be caused by poor diet.

  7. Ich habe Heidi am Internet gesehen. Heidi ist im Internet-Bilder mit lustige Captions (Unterschreiben?) - die Bilder macht spaå!

  8. Bitte entschuldigen - ich habe den falschen Buchstaben geschrieben. Heidi macht spaß, aber sie nicht macht spaå!


  9. She's cute in all but I don't believe that that picture is real. The eyes look to computer animated and it looks like they eyes were photo-shopped. I'm sorry to those that think it's real but I don't think it is.

  10. Shes cute, and Schweizer you are most deffinetly wrong , and berthold I wouldnt doubt that at all

  11. That is so awesome... and der Schweizer you wrong.