By Paul Casciato
LONDON (Reuters) - Bunga Bunga, Zenga Zenga, a tweeting cobra and other wacky news capped a year that saw the capture of America's most wanted man and the overthrow of dictators.
2011 was filled with animal antics that began with the introduction of Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum, as the latest feral German celebrity to capture hearts around the world.
The star of Leipzig Zoo made an appearance on U.S. television in February predicting Oscar winners, had her own merchandise, a song written about her and gained more than 330,000 fans on Facebook before dying in September to join Paul the oracle octopus and Knut the polar bear in the hereafter.
"The cross-eyed opossum Heidi has closed her eyes forever," the zoo wrote on its website.
PHOTOS: ANIMALS IN THE NEWS
But Heidi wasn't the only news story about the animal world which saw New Zealanders rescue, set free and then lose track of "Happy Feet," the wrong-way Emperor penguin. A fox also escaped from a Belarus hunter by shooting his would-be killer with his own rifle and a flying bear killed two people in Canada.
And who could forget Mia, the cobra who escaped from New York's Bronx zoo? She became a Twitter sensation when an anonymous Twitter user began posting tweets from @bronxzooscobra, which followed the snake's progress visiting New York landmarks and a popular cafe for morning coffee.
"Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don't even talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. Seriously, don't. I'm venomous," one Twitter message read.
Twitter gained followers and broke news, including the musings of Osama bin Laden's unwitting neighbor who tweeted about the "unusual" noises in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad during the raid to capture America's most wanted man in May.
"Uh oh, now I'm the guy who live blogged the Osama raid without knowing it," IT consultant Sohaib Athar said on Twitter a few hours after reporting a loud bang rattling his windows.
Video-sharing website YouTube delighted millions with hit videos showing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev parking a car and then trying to hold it back from ploughing into a crowd. It also showed the U.S. Presidential Cadillac marooned on a Dublin ramp and a music video entitled "Zenga Zenga," which lampooned embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi, who is flanked by gyrating female dancers in the video, was later captured and killed -- one of four dictators overthrown in an Arab Spring which also swept through Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
Other less authoritarian leaders also fell in 2011.
In seven tumultuous days in November Italy went, as one cartoonist put it, "from Bunga Bunga to Banca Banca." The first refers to the name that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi bestowed on the wild parties he allegedly held at his villas.
The second, Italian for bank, refers to the financial world that will dominate much of new Prime Minister Mario Monti's term as he tries to reign in Italy's profligate spending and tackle a major debt crisis threatening the entire euro zone.
The flamboyant Berlusconi, who is accused of sleeping with a teenage prostitute and hosting parties where girls dressed up in sexy nun or nurse outfits, said he had no regrets.
"I have a high regard for myself and I have nothing to reprimand myself for when I look at myself in the mirror," he said. "Perhaps at times I've exaggerated with irony, but never with brutal offences like those directed towards me."
Berlusconi once described U.S. President Barack Obama as "suntanned," suggested that he seduced Finnish President Tarja Halonen and held up two fingers behind a Spanish minister's head in an EU summit photograph.
British royalty enjoyed a surge of global popularity, with the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton in April, which sparked celebrations across Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a horse-racing victory on the day for the aptly named Royal Wedding at odds of 4/1.
Irish leprechauns, tea-sipping Britons, Australian ABBA impersonators and the oldest yoga teacher on the planet were just some of the people who set records on Guinness World Records Day in November.
In Ireland, 262 people in Dublin set the record for the largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns.
>"We believe that a record for leprechauns belongs to its native soil and we're really pleased to bring it back to Ireland," Derek Mooney from Ireland's RTE Radio One said.
Charlie Sheen wasn't the only celebrity to top odd stories with his "winning" ways.
Three Polish police commandos were sacked from an elite anti-terrorist unit for serving as bodyguards for Paris Hilton and singer Lady Gaga threatened to sue a London ice cream shop for its "Baby Gaga" ice cream made from breast milk.
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was jilted in June by prospective wife number three and French actor Gerard Depardieu apologized to fellow passengers for urinating during takeoff on an Air France flight.
The presenters of British motoring TV show "Top Gear" described Mexicans as "lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight" and didn't fear complaints from Mexico's UK envoy. Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora described the comments as "vulgar," "inexcusable" and "xenophobic" in a letter to the BBC.
Apple's iPhone edged past pop stars and celebrities as the top searched term on the Web in 2011, despite the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"10 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash," according to a joke lamenting the dire straits of the current U.S. economy.
The world of comedy also lost one of its favorite figures with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December.
Although he was a brutal dictator reviled by human rights groups for jailing or starving hundreds of thousands of North Koreans and abhorred for his proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Kim was comedy gold to satirists.
The late leader with his elevator shoes and bouffant hairstyle was immortalized in the 2004 U.S. film "Team America: World Police" in which a foul-mouthed Kim drops U.N. nuclear inspector Hans Blix into a shark aquarium and sings a heartfelt ballad about the burden of leadership in politically incorrect accented English: "I'm so Ronery" (I'm so Lonely).
The last laugh fell to The Economist magazine, which put a waving Kim on its cover in 2000 under the headline "Greetings, earthlings" as the world's most reclusive nation began cautiously opening up to South Korea.
Eleven years later, the British magazine's Asia blog noted Kim's death with another photo of Kim waving under the caption "Farewell, earthlings.