The Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety and Bronx Zoo: adopt-a-cock­roach scheme

Exhibited by
April 04, 2011
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Environmental / animals
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
February, 2011

SOFII’s view

We loved this exhibit when we saw it and thought all of you should have the chance to enjoy it too. Taking the traditional ‘adopt an animal’ template often used by animal welfare organisations, The Wildlife Conservation Society in partnership with Bronx Zoo in New York, USA, have raised it to a whole new level. They show that by capturing people’s imagination and harnessing a national or international occasion, you can attract, inspire and succeed beyond the average expectations.

Creator / originator

The Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, New York, USA.

Summary / objectives

The Wildlife Conservation Society is an American charity that works to protect the world’s wildlife and natural habitats. They manage conservation projects worldwide and have five parks in New York City to attract visitors and educate the public. The parks are: the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo.

Over the few days running up to Valentine’s day, Bronx Zoo created a campaign that gave new and existing supporters the opportunity to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after their loved one – or any other name they might want – as a declaration of their love.

For a donation of $10, the zoo christened one of the delightful creatures with the chosen name of a supporter, who also received a ‘certificate of honour’, so that the romantic dedication can be remembered for the lifetime of the cockroach – which by all accounts is a pretty long time. 


We don’t know who’s idea it was to pick the least desirable creature to front a campaign for the most romantic day of the year, but would imagine it was exactly this juxtaposition which made them think they could really appeal to people’s sense of humour.

We were alerted to this campaign by The Agitator so we don’t have the details as to how the idea for this campaign was born, so we’d love to hear from someone from The Wildlife Conservation Society who might be able to tell us a little more about it.

Special characteristics

Though not especially unique in terms of the concept of offering the donor something tangible in return for their money, using the least appealing creature for a campaign on the most romantic day of the year was brilliantly quirky and a great way to engage people.

Their tag-line inverts the traditional expectations of a Valentine’s Day message and has the all-important hook.

‘Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.’

And they maintain the sense of fun whilst reinforcing why naming a cockroach after your partner might be a good idea.

‘How better to express your appreciation for that special someone than to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after them? Naming a roach in honor of someone near and dear to your heart shows that you’ve noticed how resilient, resourceful, and loyal that person is. Or maybe it’s recognition of your one and only’s virility, or strength in the face of high radiation…’

Influence / impact

The campaign certainly hit it off with the general public in America who either loved the slightly crazy concept or saw it as the perfect opportunity to rebel against the typically over-commercialised ‘day of love’. Here are a few comments from those who were inspired to step outside the typical Valentine’s Day box (of chocolates and flowers).

Feb 13th, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I really dislike Valentine's Day and we don't celebrate it (too forced, too silly, too much expectation, too pink, flowery, etc). This, however, is awesome! I broke the rules and now there is a cockroach at the Bronx Zoo named for my sweet husband.

Rhyme Me a Smile
Feb 14th, 2011 at 5:57 am

Well honey, you asked me to get something that illustrated my commitment, so I got you this roach. They last forever. Can you say that about a purse by Coach?

Feb 14th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Love this, I totally went and named one for my boyfriend, this was a fun way to say i love you and get a good laugh out of it, also it’s for a good cause!


Around 1,700 names were assigned during the first two days of the campaign and in total over 5,800 of their lovely cockroaches were christened for a charitable donation. At $10 a time, that’s a non-too-shabby $58,000, for a campaign lasting only a few days.

You might wonder what place these non-too-popular creepy-crawlies have in any kind of fundraising campaign, let alone a Valentine’s Day appeal. But the clever (and slightly mischievous) creative brains at The Wildlife Conservation Society certainly knew what they were doing. This picture, taken from the campaign’s homepage has an intriguing quality all of its own – and once you realise what it is they’re suggesting, you’re so taken with the brilliant novelty of the concept, you can’t help but want to join in.
Flowers and chocolates might be the traditional Valentine’s Day gift, but do they really signify your true feelings for your beloved? As The Wildlife Conservation Society so eloquently explains, ‘Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.’