Japan zoo plans an image makeover for cockroaches

Shunanshi Tokuyama Zoo in Japan is organising an exhibition for cockroaches to improve their image in people’s eyes

Tokyo: A Japanese zoo is trying to do the impossible — improve the image of cockroaches, by putting on an exhibition of one of the world’s most hated insects. With a whopping 4,000 species around the planet, the hardy creature can survive almost anywhere, but is most commonly encountered by city-dwellers in grubby corners of the kitchen, or roaming around the floor at night.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
want one? The zoo is offering the chance to get your hands on a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (above), which can grow as long as 7 cm. Pic/Thinkstock

Staff at Shunanshi Tokuyama Zoo in Yamaguchi, western Japan, say the cockroach gets a bad press, and actually performs a vital job.

“They have such a negative image. But they’re actually playing an important role in the food chain,” a zoo spokeswoman said.

Important, but not very pleasant-sounding: eating rotting carcasses and dead plants on forest floors. One highlight of the exhibition will be a five-way race among cockroaches, where visitors can watch the worryingly speedy bugs whizz down a track. The zoo is offering the chance to get your hands on a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which can grow as long as 7 centimetres.

No need to worry about this, though, assures the zoo — Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches can’t fly. But they can hiss. The exhibition has around 200 creatures from a total of 15 species on display, and is already proving popular, the spokeswoman said, adding that 70 to 80 per cent of visitors were stopping by.

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