Japanese zoo's message: Be nice to cockroaches

Visitors can have fun at a playhouse in the shape of a roach trap at the cockroach exhibition at Tokuyama Zoo in Japan.
Visitors can have fun at a playhouse in the shape of a roach trap at the cockroach exhibition at Tokuyama Zoo in Japan.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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 - and disgusting - 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.

Staff at 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," says a zoo spokesman. "But they're actually playing an important role in the food chain."

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, in which visitors can watch the worryingly speedy bugs whizz down a track.

If that is not enough entertainment, the zoo is offering the chance to get your hands on a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which can grow as long as 7 cm.

No need to worry about this, though, assures the zoo - Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches cannot 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 spokesman said, adding that 70 to 80 per cent of visitors are stopping by.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Japanese zoo's message: Be nice to cockroaches'. Print Edition | Subscribe