Heidi, a marsupial living at the Leipzig Zoo, has had Germans in a frenzy. The animal may be gray-haired and cross-eyed, but her cute image has glossed media and Facebook - and captured hearts.
Heidi makes hearts beat faster
Heidi the opossum is one in a long line of animal celebrities that have graced the covers of Germany's newspapers in recent years, but she's proven herself to be the most media-savvy of them all.
The two-and-a-half year-old has over 150,000 fans on Facebook - more than twice that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel - is the model for a new stuffed animal, and inspired a song on YouTube sung by three girls aged 13, 8 and four. The girls sing: "Heidi is so sweet; it's great she's around. I fell in love with her at first sight."
Beauty is subjective
The animal, originally from Denmark, is not your classic beauty. Sporting gray hair, freckled ears, a pointy nose and white whiskers, she's a frisky sight to behold. And it's her eye-sight that has its hold on German and world media alike. Heidi is cross-eyed - a condition Leipzig Zoo keepers cannot explain, but which would make her more vulnerable to predators in the wilderness.
Once a young star, polar bear Knut is no longer a cute cub
She's safe and sound in the zoo, officials said, and not in any pain from her charming optical flaw. The public won't catch a glimpse of her until the summer, however, when the zoo's tropical wildlife display opens.
Humans fall hard
"Humans can't resist such 'cute' animals because they represent our lost innocence and 'remind us of our lost connection to nature,'" Steffen Damm, a media professor at Berlin Free University, told AP news agency.
Heidi follows in the footsteps of Knut, a polar cub hand-fed after his mother shunned him but who has lost his media appeal as he grows up. Heidi also fills a front-page hole left by the October 2010 death of Paul, the octopus, who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2010 World Cup.
Author: Louisa Schaefer (AP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Kate Bowen