Heidi (opossum)

Heidi (May 2008 – 28 September 2011)[1] was a Virginia opossum housed at Germany's Leipzig Zoo. In December 2010, the two-and-a-half year old, cross-eyed animal made international headlines shortly after a photograph was published by Bild. Heidi inspired a popular YouTube song, a line of stuffed animals, and a Facebook page with over 290,000 followers.[2][3]

SpeciesDidelphis virginiana
BornMay 2008
North Carolina
DiedSeptember 2011
Leipzig Zoo
Known forCross-eyed

The zoo's new tropical wildlife exhibit opened to the public in July 2011, and Heidi was exhibited alongside two other opossums – her sister Naira and a male named Teddy.[4] International media has noted that Heidi was one of several animals either born or living in German zoos who have made headlines over the past few years; she followed in the footsteps of other German celebrity animals such as polar bears Knut and Flocke, as well as Paul the Octopus.[5]


Heidi was given to Leipzig by Denmark's Odense Zoo in May 2010, although she was originally raised in a wild animal sanctuary in the U.S. state of North Carolina after being found as an orphan.[4] It is speculated by zoo officials that Heidi's most notable attribute – her crossed eyes – may have been caused by fatty deposits behind her eyes, the result of poor diet from when she was younger.[6] While this condition did not affect the opossum's health in any way, mainly because opossums are nocturnal, it would nonetheless have made her vulnerable to predators in the wild.[7] The zoo put Heidi on a strict diet shortly after her arrival; it was reported in late January that she had already lost 400 grams (about one pound).[8]

Heidi was euthanised by the Zoo veterinary staff on 28 September 2011 after several weeks of struggle against arthritis and other old age health conditions. The life span of opossums in the wild is normally two years.[9][10]


In December 2010, German tabloid Bild featured photographs of various animals to be featured in Leipzig Zoo's upcoming Gondwanaland exhibit. Pictures showing Heidi, the cross-eyed Virginia opossum, quickly became a phenomenon on the Internet.[11] Although the zoo declined any plans for marketing the small marsupial, Heidi's quick rise to fame led to a popular Facebook page.[2]

Despite the opossum's sudden fame, the Zoo had no plans to change the upcoming exhibit to better showcase its new star. Leipzig Zoo spokeswoman Maria Saegebart stated in early January: "We understand that Heidi has become so popular and that people will want to see her, but that will not change the zoo's strategy with the exhibit – she's one animal of many."[5] Heidi reportedly received an offer to appear at the 83rd Academy Awards on 27 February 2011 via video broadcast,[12] but instead appeared on the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live! in a series of pre-taped vignettes, in which she predicted the winners of three Oscar categories. She missed one prediction, choosing the long-shot Oscar-nominated 127 Hours to win over the eventual Oscar-winning The King's Speech for Best Film. A Heidi stuffed animal was included in some gift bags available to Oscar guests.[13]


  1. ^ "Put Out of Her Misery: Cross-Eyed Opossum Heidi Is Dead". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b Warner, Mary Beth. (7 January 2011). "A Star is Born: Heidi, the Cross-Eyed Opossum, Charms Germany". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Cross-eyed opossum is Facebook hit[dead link]". The Press Association. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b "A few facts about Heidi the opossum Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine". Leipzig Zoo website. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b Kelsey, Eric. (11 January 2011). "Cross-eyed opossum capturing hearts". Reuters. Retrieved 12 January 2011. Archived January 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Norman, Joshua. (7 January 2011). "Heidi, the Cross-Eyed Opossum, Becomes a Star in Germany". CBS News. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Germany falls in love with cross-eyed opossum Heidi". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  8. ^ Kelsey, Eric. (31 January 2011). "Heidi the cross-eyed opossum on a diet for health". Reuters. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  9. ^ "Heidi the cross-eyed opossum dead at three". The Local. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  10. ^ "Staying Alive".
  11. ^ "Cross-eyed opossum finds Internet fame". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Hollywood Fame Beckons for Opossum: Cross-Eyed Heidi May Appear in Oscars Coverage". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  13. ^ Kelsey, Eric. (28 February 2011). "German celebrity opossum misses one Oscar pick". Reuters. Retrieved 6 March 2011.

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