People around the world are taking advantage of the San Antonio Zoo’s latest Valentine’s Day-themed fundraiser to tell their exes to bug off.

The fundraiser, launched by the San Antonio Zoo earlier this year, has gone globally viral: donors get to name a Dubia roach (Blaptica dubia, also known as the Tropical Spotted Roach) after an ex, and then watch it get fed to one of the zoo’s critters.

Dubbed “Cry Me a Cockroach,” the fundraiser is not new — the zoo launched its first roach-related fundraiser in January 2020, and has hosted several since then.

But this year, a robust social media campaign by zoo staff has gone viral, raising the fundraiser’s profile across the globe.

“We’ve been featured on CNN, NPR, Fox News, NBC, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Drew Barrymore Show — we have someone from the BBC actually coming today,” said Cyle Perez, the zoo’s director of public relations and integrated marketing.

How it works is pretty simple: for a donation of $5, $10 or $25, which goes toward the zoo’s conservation efforts, San Antonio Zoo staff will name either a roach, rat or vegetable after your ex and will film it being fed to one of their animals.

For $150, donors get an individualized video message of their chosen meal being gobbled up by a zoo animal, which will then be sent anonymously to their ex.

Last year, the zoo raised over $80,000, and this year is on track to beat that amount, Perez said. He described the results of the zoo’s social media campaign.

“We’ve had over 4 billion in reach alone, and had over 1 billion video views,” Perez told the San Antonio Report. “We feel this campaign really took off because we had a solid foundation with our audience on social media already. We aim to be fun and light-hearted with our followers.”

While other zoos do similar fundraisers, Perez said the option to have a video sent to one’s ex helped set the San Antonio Zoo’s fundraiser apart.

Angelíca María Casas, the BBC reporter who filmed a segment on the fundraiser earlier this week, captured a 1-year-old opossum named Notch eating several roaches. A San Antonio resident, Casas said she was excited to check out the action up close.

Notch the opossum is fed a cockroach at the San Antonio Zoo.
Notch the opossum crunches on a Dubia roach at the San Antonio Zoo as part of its ‘Cry Me a Cockroach’ fundraiser. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“Although the story is quite local from the outset, the global attention it has garnered made it of interest to BBC News, since our audience is quite international,” Casas told the San Antonio Report. “Relationships — and the falling out of relationships — are something everyone can relate to.”

For her visual segment, she connected with a donor all the way from China.

The most popular names for roaches this year so far have been Matt and Sarah, Perez said. The San Antonio Zoo feeds the condemned roaches, rats and veggies to about a handful of zoo animals, including snakes, lizards and birds.

Notch, who was found on zoo premises last year and has since become a sort of mascot for the zoo, is a particular fan favorite.

Notch would eat roaches all day if she was given the chance. As the BBC’s Casas filmed her, she downed six roaches in a row, holding each one in her tiny claws, crunching down like she was eating popcorn at the movies. Her gleaming pointed teeth make her look a bit frightening, but her small black eyes looked friendly as she chowed down.

BBC Senior Video Journalist Angelíca María Casas records a tortoise eating romaine at the San Antonio Zoo.
Some donors eschew the roach in favor of veggies, which go to one of the zoo’s three tortoises. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Perez says his favorites are the tortoises, who eat the veggies. Only about 3% of donors ask for the veggie opinion, he said. Tortoises George, Bruno and Edie are extremely old, Perez noted, possibly more than 100 years. They move slowly toward the lettuce held out for them in tongs, munching away as onlookers gawk.

“As a federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we’re always looking for active ways to interest our donors,” Perez said. “We love trying to come up with something creative for not just San Antonio, but for the whole world to enjoy.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of money the San Antonio Zoo has earned from this fundraiser.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...