Arts & Culture

Celebrate This Valentine’s Day with Cockroaches and a Rat Cake

This San Antonio Zoo fundraiser lets you pay to have a cockroach named after an ex and fed to a hungry animal

photo: Courtesy of the San Antonio Zoo.

A Von der Deckens Hornbill enjoys a cockroach.

“Oh, there’s exes, and there’s landlords, neighbors, and bosses—bosses are a big one,” says Hope Roth, a vice president of the San Antonio Zoo, which is offering an outlet for the broken-hearted or the fed-up this Valentine’s Day. For a donation of five dollars, you can name a cockroach for the person of your choice and the zoo will feed it to a hungry animal on camera as part of its Cry Me a Cockroach fundraiser. For twenty-five dollars, you can upgrade to a rat.

If vindictive-for-a-cause strikes a chord, you’re in good company: Last year, 5,000 people from fifty states and more than thirty countries purchased a cockroach or rat, and the zoo raised $45,000. This year, all proceeds will go to an expansion of the jaguar habitat that will feature a skybridge for the big cats, who love to walk up high.

photo: Courtesy of the San Antonio Zoo
A blue-bellied roller having a snack.

The fundraiser’s first go-around last year had some lessons: “We live-streamed a whole tray of cockroaches going into the bird habitat, but the birds went crazy and it was only seconds before the roaches were all snapped up,” Roth says with a laugh. This year, there will be a full day of prerecorded and live video starting on the zoo’s social media channels at 10 a.m. Central. The submitted names (first names only) will roll across the bottom of the screen during feedings to lizards, birds, snakes, and other zoo animals. 

photo: Courtesy of San Antonio Zoo
A timber rattlesnake prepares to eat a rat.

“These are things the animals would be eating anyway,” Roth says. “And the cockroaches and rats are the unsung heroes here, forming an integral part of what makes the world go around.” Though the staff has fun with the event, the point is to raise money and benefit the zoo’s residents. “It’s really good for the animals,” Roth says. “It’s a special day for them.”

The crowning glory of the day comes in the form of something as intriguing as it is repulsive: A rat cake for the zoo’s oldest Komodo dragon. “It will be a round cake,” Roth says, “made with stacked rats and other Komodo dragon food items to build it up.”

For some emotional catharsis, throw a name into the feeding ring here, and on Sunday morning, tune in to the zoo’s Facebook page. As Roth says, “If your ex was a rat, feed ’em to a snake.”