Bronx Zoo sells roach-naming rights for Valentine's Day

A Madagascar roach at the Bronx Zoo, in a file photo Sweet nothings: Male Madagascar roaches hiss at females during courtship

A New York City zoo is offering a Valentine's gift for Americans who have caught the love bug: a chance to name a cockroach after their loved ones.

The Bronx Zoo is exhibiting 58,000 giant Madagascar hissing roaches and is soliciting $10 (£6.25) donations in return for naming rights.

"Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever," the zoo quipped.

The brown, iridescent roaches grow up to 3in (7.5cm) long. Males hiss at females in courtship rituals.

Zoo spokesman John Calvelli told the Associated Press news agency that about 1,000 names had been bought on the first day of the promotion.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, suggested a reason for the unusual gift: "Maybe it's in recognition of your one and only's virility, or strength in the face of high radiation."

The roaches, which are native to the island of Madagascar off Africa's south-eastern coast, are not pests and do not inhabit human dwellings, according to the National Geographic Society.

The males are known to ram one another with their horns and shove one another about with their abdomens during competition for standing in the roach hierarchy.

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