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For donations starting at $15, you can name a cockroach at Brookfield Zoo after your former partner.

Carrie Antlfinger

At Brookfield Zoo, you can pay to name a cockroach after your ex

If you’re on good terms with your former partner, if you like to forgive and forget -- this story is not for you.

Brookfield Zoo in Chicago’s western suburbs says for a donation they will name a cockroach after your ex for Valentine’s Day.

WBEZ’s Lauren Frost spoke to Melissa Obrock, the director of donor societies at Brookfield Zoo, to hear more about this creepy crawly program.

Other zoos have done promotions like this, but someone had to decide they wanted to bring “Name a Cockroach” to Brookfield. My question for that person is, who hurt you? Why did you want to offer this?

“So, it wasn’t me. I wish I could take credit, but it was a former colleague who started this small campaign back in 2020. It was just a way to engage the community in supporting the zoo.”

If someone wants to name a cockroach after their ex, how does it work? What should they do?

“We have on our Brookfield Zoo website, [people interested] can read the instructions and fill out a quick giving form. We’ve tried to make it easy. You can choose up to three cockroaches for a $15 gift, $30 gift or $45 gift, and you can name it for that not-so-special someone, but we also do offer an opportunity to name a cockroach for someone you love.”

What does the money go toward?

“The money goes toward our annual fund, which is a really important source of operating support here at the zoo. The funds directly contribute to animal welfare, our conservation programs all around the globe and habitat preservation work that we participate in. We’ve raised, since 2020, almost $50,000 with this cockroach program. So it’s a little gift that goes a long way.”

How is the cockroach actually named?

“It’s an honorary naming and we do actually have a donor recognition board that is hung up on Valentine’s Day outside of our Hamel Family Play Zoo. We’ll share images on social media so people can see the list of honorees — and dishonorees — that have been recognized with a cockroach name this year.”

So obviously, the idea is to give your ex’s name to something gross, but I feel like that’s kind of unfair to cockroaches. So let’s revise the narrative. Any cool facts you can tell me about the Madagascar hissing cockroach?

“Definitely, and that’s a common piece of feedback we get, which is why we do offer the opportunity to show your love by naming a cockroach as well. We try to let people decide how they feel about the cockroach. Despite their reputation, cockroaches play a really vital role in the ecosystem. They break down organic matter, and we hope people will come and visit them.”

Since you’ve been doing the program, are there any stories that you’ve heard from people (without giving away too many personal details)? Stories of relationships gone wrong or right that have ended up memorialized in cockroach form?

“Yes. We’ll never tell though. We do maintain privacy. We only list first names on our roach recognition board. But it is very interesting every year. Some of the comments that people try to put in the naming fields and submit. There are a lot of very unhappy exes out there.”

Are there submissions you have to deny?

“We reserve the right to edit. Absolutely.”

Lauren Frost is WBEZ’s afternoon news producer. Follow her @frostlaur.

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