All of the proceeds from this 18-month calendar go to help Gulf Coast wildlife rehabs

By Kelli Bender
June 28, 2019 01:27 PM
Lady Walker of WildHeart Nola

You have seen sexy firefighter calendars, but how about a calendar that features sexy firefighters and adorable baby opossums?

Stop searching, it is here.

Lady Walker, a wildlife rehabber and the owner and lead photographer of WildHeart Family Pet Portraits, has created the 18-month Men and Marsupials calendar. You won’t find any koalas or kangaroos here, this calendar from the New Orleans-based photographer features North American marsupials only — and opossums are the only living marsupials native to North America.

Walker told PEOPLE she came up with the idea to use opossums as calendar stars after encountering one of the animals at a wild life rehabber’s ranch.

“I visited a friend’s ranch where she rehabs orphaned opossums and squirrels. I took a photo of my boyfriend holding an opossum and shared it to Facebook with the caption ‘Maybe I should make a calendar of sexy men holding opossums!’ as a joke. A lot of people said I should do it! Between then and starting production on the calendar I actually started rehabbing myself. I quickly learned how expensive wildlife rehabilitation is and how huge of a need there is for rehabbers. So I planned to make an 18-month calendar that I could start selling immediately to raise money,” the animal lover said.

The process of getting all the models together was easier than she thought. While some may think opossums are scary or stinky, there were plenty of guys ready to prove this unfair stereotype wrong. Walker put out a call on Facebook for models, and “the post was shared so many times and I had such a massive response I decided to use as many men as possible! None of them are actual models and I really like that about the project. I wanted the calendar to be diverse and relatable.”

Lady Walker of WildHeart Nola

As for the animals involved in the calendar, all the opossum modeling was done by one of the orphaned baby opossums Walker has helped care for.

“His name is Muu, short for Mini Muffuletta, and he has some sort of neurological issue that makes him unfit for survival in the wild. Rehabbers try not to handle orphans that much because we want them to maintain a healthy fear of humans. It’s our job to make sure they have their best chance of survival in the wild. But since it appeared that Muu would not be releasable, I used him exclusively for all 18 shoots,” the calendar creator said.

Even though many of the men who donated their time and posed for the calendar had never met an opossum, Muu made the introductions easy.

Lady Walker of WildHeart Nola

“Muu is so adorable and the men were all so ecstatic about hanging out with him I usually got the shot I wanted pretty quickly,” said Walker, who added that each of the sessions took about 15 minutes to shoot.

The photographer hopes her creation makes people rethink the opossum, an animal she admits has “completely taken over my life.” To help shed some light on these misunderstood creatures, Walker has included opossum facts throughout her calendar — notes on how the animals help reduce the spread of Lyme disease and are actually clean, non-threatening creatures.

“I hope people see that opossums are cute, interesting animals that are beneficial to the environment. There is a lot of cruelty towards North America’s only native marsupial. I’m hoping that spreading education and awareness with this calendar can help change public perception and end cruelty towards opossums,” Walker said.

One thing she doesn’t want people taking away from the Men and Marsupial calendar, is the idea that opossums make good pets. These animals are wild and do not thrive in a domestic setting. The only reason Walker, and experienced wildlife rehabber, included Muu in the calendar is because he is not releasable back into the wild and is more familiar with being handled by humans.

Lady Walker of WildHeart Nola

If you find a opossum in the wild you think is in need of help, Walker recommends “to get the opossum to a licensed rehabilitator instead of trying to keep it as a pet. They are complex creatures in need of specialized care and there are people trained and ready to give them the care they need.”

You can safely help opossums by buying a Men and Marsupials 18-month calendar. All of the proceeds from the calendar go directly to Gulf Coast wildlife rehabs like Trampled Rose Rescue & Rehab in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.