US zoo offers up cockroaches for Valentine’s Day celebrations

An American zoo is offering a different take on the traditional Valentine's Day present.

An American zoo is offering a different take on the traditional Valentine's Day present. Photo: TND/Getty

Ah, Valentine’s Day; a day for love to be expressed through chocolates, flowers … and cockroaches.

New York’s Bronx Zoo offers one of the most unusual gifts for the most romantic day of the year: For $US15 ($23), buyers can name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after their loved one – or maybe an ex – and receive a digital certificate for confirmation.

“We get a lot of questions about whether it’s like ‘name your ex’, or it’s like a vengeful kind of promotion, and it really isn’t,” Wildlife Conservation Society executive director of membership and digital Debbie Schneiderman told Reuters.

“Certainly, people can name it after an ex, or they can support someone who’s recently had a break-up by naming it after their ex, but by far the majority of the roaches that get named are in a loving fashion.

“As a gesture of love, as a gesture of friendship.”

For those who are willing to splurge a bit more, and want to watch something other than a romcom while cuddling on the couch, the zoo also offers a virtual encounter experience with one of its cockroaches.

It is the 13th consecutive year Bronx Zoo has offered the creepy-crawly Valentine’s Day gift. More than 54,000 Madagascar hissing cockroaches have been named since 2011.

This year, the zoo’s additional gift packages include matching pairs of cockroach-adorned socks, and a cockroach plush toy.

For lovers in New York City, a Valentine’s Day date could be spent at the zoo after-hours, sampling chocolate and learning about the importance of insects in the production of chocolate.

This comes along with an up-close introduction to ambassador animals from some of the species the Wildlife Conservation Society helps protect in its work with cocoa farmers in South America.

The program appears to have inspired Pennsylvania’s Elmwood Park Zoo, which is inviting the heartbroken to participate in its ‘Love Stinks’ fundraiser by naming a live cockroach after their ex. The jilted cockroach will then be fed to the zoo skunk, Pesto.

As part of the $US10 ($15) donation package, the zoo will even send participants a video of Pesto munching on their named roach.

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