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The top 11 animal stories of 2011

By: Russell McLendon on Dec. 27, 2011, 7:43 a.m.
Heidi the cross-eyed opossum

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Heidi the opossum

Heidi had humble origins, found as an orphan in 2008 and taken to a North Carolina wildlife shelter with her sister, Naira. They were raised there until 2010, when Germany's Leipzig Zoo acquired them for a new exhibit. Both had eye problems, but Heidi was especially cross-eyed — and that would be her ticket to fame.

When the German press got its first glimpse of the "squinting opossum" in late 2010, a star was born. Heidi collected 300,000 Facebook fans, inspired YouTube tributes (see below) and even appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", where she correctly picked two of three Oscar winners.

Heidi died in September, but unlike Knut, her death wasn't premature. At 3.5 years old, she was considered elderly for a Virginia opossum, which only live to about 4 or 5.