Cross-eyed opossum Heidi becomes German star

Heidi's eye problem may have been caused by her diet, zoo officials say

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A cross-eyed opossum called Heidi, who is being housed in Leipzig Zoo, has become a media sensation in Germany.

The creature, who is not yet on display, has already inspired a YouTube hit song and a toy, and attracted more than 65,000 fans on Facebook.

She was abandoned in the US with her sister and moved to Germany in May.

She is the latest animal to win fame in Germany, after Paul the Octopus gained worldwide attention for predicting the 2010 World Cup results.

Heidi, who is thought to be about two-and-a-half years old, was left outside an animal shelter in North Carolina in the US, along with her sister, Naira.

The siblings, along with a male opossum called Teddy, have been at the zoo since May last year and will go on display in July.

'Heidi is so sweet'

According to Der Spiegel, Heidi became known after reporters from the German tabloid Bild went to photograph animals that will be part of Gondwanaland, a newly themed area at the zoo. After they became public, photos of the creature became a sensation.

Heidi has also inspired a song, written by Stefan Langner, and sung by three young girls, which has become an internet hit on YouTube.

A cross-eyed opossum (didelphis) called Heidi sits in her interim enclosure, in the zoo in Leipzig, Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010 The zoo said the attention was "surprising and unplanned"

The lyrics state: "Heidi is so sweet. How nice that she exists. I fell so in love with her from the first."

Zoo officials say they believe the creature's eye problem could be related to the diet she had before being abandoned, or because she is overweight, which can lead to fat desposits around the eyes, reports AFP news agency.

"Apart from aesthetically, this situation is not a problem," the zoo says. "As animals that are active at night, opossums find their way around using their noses."

The zoo has described the attention as "surprising and unplanned", and have said they have responded by putting up a new website page about Heidi.

The zoo says it does not plan to undertake any "active marketing" of Heidi, and that any revenue from third parties will be diverted to a project supporting rhinos in Borneo.

Last year, Paul the Octopus, who was kept in the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen, found stardom after accurately predicting the outcome of eight matches during the 2010 football World Cup.

Paul made his name by successfully choosing a mussel from one of two boxes bearing the flags of competing nations.

And in 2007, a polar bear cub called Knut became an international star at Berlin Zoo.

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