You have to hand it to the Germans. In an age where kids are obsessed with computer games and theme parks and shun more traditional leisure pursuits, they can still manage to make a visit to a traditional zoo sexy.
How do they do it? Well… they exploit our obsession with celebrity culture. Berlin zoo doesn’t just have a polar bear… no, it has Knut. The cuddly adorable cub, or latterly the lovelorn teenage polar bear, or even the killer sociopath, depending on which tabloid you’re reading at the time. The main thing is, he’s in the headlines at least as often as Heidi Klum…
Then there was Paul, the amazing Oberhausen octopus. Not just any old fishy cephalopod mind, but one capable of predicting the football scores with uncanny accuracy, as amply displayed in his 2008 Euro and 2010 World Cup performances. The octopus marketing department glossed over the small detail at the time that the normal lifespan of an octopus is only around two years, which must raise some suspicions that the 2008 and 2010 Pauls may not have been entirely the same octopus… but we shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story. Cephalopod psychics will be here to stay…. watch out for the predictions on this year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany.
The newest celebrity zoo inhabitant to break onto the scene is Heidi, the squinting Opossum. Heidi exhibits all of Knut’s cuteness (think merchandise) but definitely lacks Paul’s psychic powers. The initial back-story which the fine marketing people invented (even an opossum needs more than just a pretty face to stay in the headlines) was that Heidi was given to Leipzig zoo by a Danish zoo – presumably offloading one of its more defective exhibits. Not only does Heidi squint, but she also has a non-functioning tail. These are, of course, precisely the attributes which a German zoo marketing department can work with to turn Heidi into the X-factor winner of the captive animal world. All they needed to do was team her up with a really irritating song…. and where’s Simon Cowell when you need him?
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