This Connecticut Exhibit Will Name a Cockroach After Your Ex (and Feed It To a Snake)

On Valentine’s Day you can watch via Facebook Live as rats and roaches are introduced (“Heeeeere’s Jim!”) and fed to the cold-blooded creatures at Connecticut’s Riverside Reptiles.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Jan 31 2023


A Burmese python is among the 200+ animals on exhibit at Riverside Reptiles.

Photo Credit : Brian Kleinman, Riverside Reptiles

Who’s the rat who wronged you? Rather than simply enduring the heart pain you feel every time you encounter a Valentine’s Day display, allow Riverside Reptiles to provide the catharsis you crave in a peculiar yet satisfying way.

This Enfield, Connecticut, education center, which is home to more than 200 creatures including the largest assemblage of venomous snakes in southern New England, invites you to name a rat or a roach after your ex, your terrible boss, your mother-in-law… anyone whose behavior has been hurtful. On Valentine’s Day, just after the center’s doors close for the day at 4 p.m., you can watch via Facebook Live as rats and roaches are introduced (“Heeeeere’s Jim!”) and fed to reptiles large and small.

A roach will cost you a $5 online donation, a rat $10. Go ahead and buy a four-pack. It’s all for the good cause of sustaining this destination that works to educate the public about the need to protect some of the planet’s most feared and maligned animals, many of which are imperiled due to habitat destruction, global warming, and other human activity. More than 20% of the world’s reptiles face extinction according to a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature assessment.

“The money goes toward animal care, and it’s all in good fun,” says Riverside Reptiles owner Brian Kleinman, who, with his team, had to think of a creative way to raise funds when his new facility was impacted by COVID closures and the loss of school field trip business. Piggybacking on similar food-naming fundraisers at zoos nationwide, Riverside Reptiles offered only rats during the first Valentine’s Day event in 2021. And while rats are part of the normal diet for the center’s slithery snakes, stealthy alligators, and ravenous carnivorous turtles, Kleinman admits that first year was particularly memorable for one particular animal.

“We have a very large alligator; her name is Brenda,” he says. “She’s about 8-½ feet and 200 pounds.” Tremendous community support that first year meant Brenda feasted on about 30 rodents, one after the other, Hungry Hungry Hippos-style. “It was probably the best day of her life,” Kleinman says. And even though Brenda could have easily downed 70 more, “we put her on a diet after that,” he says.

American alligator Brenda at Riverside Reptiles in CT.
Brenda, an American alligator who calls Riverside Reptiles home, is eager to be your Galentine if you’re feeling blue on Valentine’s Day.
Photo Credit : Brian Kleinman, Riverside Reptiles

In 2022, the fundraiser took a turn for the roaches and only raised about half the $500 raised the initial year. So for 2023, Riverside Reptiles is hoping the combo of rats and roaches will help them achieve a new event fundraising record. “Every penny counts for sure,” says Kleinman, who will run the livestream festivities with his team.

Even if you and your boo are as tight as a boa constrictor’s squeeze, tune in free for a break from the holiday’s Hallmark-level sappiness. Kleinman says the naming of the rats and roaches and the ensuing “chomp, chomp, and crush” is “kind of amusing.” Especially for those with lonely hearts.

“We’re here to help,” he says.

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