Anyone going through a tough breakup this Valentine’s Day may find some solace in feeding their ex to a zoo animal. Symbolically, of course.
San Antonio Zoo is going viral for the return of its annual Cry Me a Cockroach Fundraiser, which allows donors to name a cockroach, a rodent or a vegetable to be fed to one of the zoo’s animals.
A recent video of an employee in a full-body cockroach costume, captioned, “When you find out you can name a roach after your ex and get a video of it being fed to one of the animals at San Antonio Zoo,” gained more than 2 million views and generated a flurry of viewer questions.
“Are we limited to the number we can name?” one user commented. “I have a laundry list”
“This makes me so happy!!” commented another.
The event, which runs through Feb. 14, has been a big hit around the world every year since its launch in 2020, with donations rolling in from all U.S. states and dozens of countries.
This year's fundraiser is on track to be the most popular one yet, according to Cyle Perez, the zoo's public relations director.
Each donation includes a digital Valentine’s Day card to send to the targeted individual — which doesn’t have to be an ex, but can be anyone, from a difficult boss to a pesky neighbor. A limited number of people who upgrade to a $150 donation can also send personalized video messages to their not-so-special someone as the roach, rat or veggie meets its demise.
Some of these videos have actually included sweet and encouraging messages meant to make the recipient smile, Perez said, while others seemed more like an avenue for a heartbroken donor to release their frustration.
“It really is interesting to see what people are using this fundraiser for,” he said. “We’ve also seen some more playful ones [dedications] like political figures or 2022 trends that people didn’t like, like the AI profile photos. Looking at the back end, it’s a fun view into society.”
As of last week, Perez said, the most popular names submitted are Matt and Jessica. Last year’s were Jacob and Sarah.
The zoo doesn’t have shareable numbers yet on how much money has been raised so far, Perez said. But the funds typically go into the zoo’s general upkeep, as well as its conservation programs for endangered species in countries such as Japan, Peru and China.
Spreading the fundraiser around TikTok has helped the San Antonio Zoo attract attention from thousands of potential visitors beyond the local community. Since really ramping up its TikTok presence in June, the zoo has gained more than 1 million followers for its clips capturing the animals’ cutest and funniest moments.
One video of a hippo crushing a pumpkin racked up 2.7 million likes. Another of a kangaroo joey slipping continuously out of its mother’s pouch, captioned, “We all have those days,” garnered 12.7 million.
“We like to meet our guests wherever they’re finding us,” Perez said. “A lot of that is social media nowadays, which is exciting because you can truly take what’s happening here and showcase it to the world.”
The San Antonio Zoo isn’t alone in its cockroach-themed Valentine’s Day offering. The Bronx Zoo’s Name-a-Roach program lets donors name a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach in someone’s honor. For a bigger donation, the package comes with a matching roach tumbler, a tote bag and a certificate commemorating the gift.