Be mine, love bug? For Valentine’s Day, name a cockroach after your ex

An increasing number of zoos are offering people the chance to name creatures after those who’ve spurned them in love.


You can see why people rebel against Valentine’s Day. All those chocolates and store-bought cards seem so cheesy and inauthentic, particularly if you’ve recently had your heart broken.

But perhaps the zoos and wildlife centers letting people name cockroaches and other animals after their exes are overreacting.

Take the El Paso zoo in Texas. It’s running a name-a-cockroach promotion, followed by a Valentine’s Day “quit bugging me” livestream, where those who pledged money to name a roach can watch it being fed to meerkat or a tamarin. It’s proved seriously popular: the zoo said its offer was so attractive it had run out of roaches to name.

The Bronx zoo in New York touts itself as the originator of the roach stunt, and says it has been giving the gift of a Madagascar hissing cockroach since 2011. They also pledge cockroaches to celebrities they admire: Orange is the New Black actor Natasha Lyonne, Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson and late-night hosts Desus and Mero have been honorary recipients of the zoo’s roaches this year.

Rather than feeding the roaches to other animals, the Bronx zoo promotes them as symbols of eternity. “Nothing lasts longer than a roach, so it could be sent as a symbolic gesture about how long your love will last or exactly the opposite,” said John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organisation that runs the zoo. They also have mugs and hats available, for people who are very much not over it.

Southern Oregon’s Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center has upped the stakes by allowing those willing to make a donation to name a salmon after their ex, with the promise it will be fed to their bears Kodi and Yak. They even promise “a special certificate and photos of Kodi and Yak destroying your salmon”.

The promotion is part of the zoo’s “saving wildlife with love” program, which helps to raise money during the winter months when visitor numbers dwindle. So far, the promotion has brought in over $8,500 in salmon sales.

The trend is gaining global popularity. The Hemsley Conservation Center in the UK will let you name a cockroach, while Sydney zoo is letting people name a snake after a former paramour.


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