Want to Get Back at Your Ex? Name a Cockroach After Them And Watch a Meerkat Eat It on Valentine's Day

iStock.com/THEGIFT777
iStock.com/THEGIFT777

Cockroaches have become the unofficial mascot of Valentine's Day at a handful of U.S. zoos. At the Bronx Zoo in New York, you can pay to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after your beloved in celebration of the holiday ("give the gift that's eternal," they advertise). This year, the El Paso Zoo in Texas is offering a similar promotion, but with an unromantic twist: Ask them and they'll name a cockroach after your ex before feeding it to a meerkat on Valentine's Day, CBS News reports.

The El Paso Zoo writes on Facebook that their Quit Bugging Me event is "the perfect Valentine's Day gift." Message the zoo your ex's name on Facebook, and starting February 11, their first name and last initial will be displayed on social media and outside the meerkat exhibit.

On February 14, the unlucky bugs will be fed to the zoo's meerkats as part of their daily enrichment activities. Even if you don't feel compelled to get petty vengeance on an ex, you can still participate by watching a live stream of the event at 2:15 p.m. Mountain Time.

Zoos aren't the only places offering the public offbeat ways to celebrate Valentine's Day. The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn gives free tours around the holiday, and White Castle accepts Valentine's reservations for full-service dinners.

[h/t CBS News]

12 Memorable Facts About Elephants

iStock.com/Gilitukha
iStock.com/Gilitukha

Known for their strong family bonds and intelligence, elephants have fascinated humans across time and cultures. As the largest living land mammal, a male African bush elephant typically stands more than 10 feet tall and weighs an incredible 6.6 tons. Although poachers still kill approximately 100 African elephants every day, conservation groups are working to save elephant populations from extinction. Read on for a dozen things you might not know about elephants, from their long history as a political symbol to their legit firefighting skills.

1. Contrary to popular belief, they're not exactly scared of mice.

Baby elephant looks startled.
iStock.com/szaphotography

Cartoonists have long depicted the funny juxtaposition of a giant elephant terrified of a tiny mouse. Zoologists and elephant trainers have conducted experiments to test whether elephants are truly afraid of rodents, and it seems to be a myth. Mice themselves don't frighten elephants, but the pachyderms have poor vision and can get extremely startled when anything suddenly scurries by. Elephants are probably more afraid of a mouse's sudden movement than the mouse itself.

2. Wild elephants could have populated the U.S., but Lincoln nixed the idea.

A mother and baby elephant taking a walk.
iStock.com/saha_avijan

In 1861, President Lincoln received gifts, including elephant tusks and a handmade sword, from Siam's King Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut. The king of present-day Thailand also made an interesting offer: Mongkut proposed that Siam would send pairs of male and female elephants to the U.S. to breed in the forests. Americans could then tame the wild elephants and put them to work for the economic benefit of the country. William Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, replied to Mongkut in 1862, graciously declining his offer. He told the king that since the U.S. already used steam power to efficiently transport goods within the country, elephants simply wouldn't be practical.

3. The elephant equivalent of thumb-sucking is trunk-sucking.

Baby elephant sucking its trunk.
iStock.com/bucky_za

When baby elephants want to comfort themselves, they instinctively start sucking their trunks. Trunk-sucking is also a way that a baby elephant can learn how to use her trunk (which contains between 40,000 and 50,000 muscles). Although most elephants, like human babies, grow out of sucking behavior, some adult elephants also suck their trunks when they feel anxious.

4. They've been the symbol of the Republican Party since 1874.

Elephant symbol for the Republican party.
iStock.com/Niyazz

Although elephants had been occasionally used as a symbol for Republicans during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast, who drew an elephant in an 1874 issue of Harper's Weekly, gets the credit for linking the animal with the political party. In later cartoons, Nast continued to draw an elephant to portray the Republican Party, and other cartoonists adopted it, establishing the animal as the GOP symbol.

5. Barnum & Bailey trained elephants to play baseball.

U.S. stamp with a circus elephant on it.
iStock.com/Valerie Loiseleux

Baseball is America's pastime, so why not teach elephants how to play the game? In 1912, thanks to the work of Barnum & Bailey's elephant trainer, Harry L. Mooney, the intelligent animals played their first ballgame. Although playing baseball was just one of many tricks that circus elephants learned, Barnum & Bailey capitalized on the concept of elephant baseball by using the image on posters to sell tickets for shows.

6. Some elephants have been convicted of murder.

Elephant foot in chains.
iStock.com/Pentium2

Although elephants are typically viewed as gentle giants, they are capable of attacking and killing humans. Male elephants undergo musth, a hormonal change that makes them temporarily produce tons of testosterone, resulting in aggression. But even female elephants can kill. In 1916, a town in Tennessee charged an elephant named Big Mary with first-degree murder for killing her handler. Big Mary, who worked for the Sparks Circus, attacked her handler, possibly after he struck her with a bullhook as she was trying to eat a watermelon rind. Big Mary was convicted and sentenced to execution. Some 2500 residents of the town gathered to watch Big Mary's dramatic hanging, which featured a 100-ton crane and a chain that broke under her weight.

7. They grieve death.

Elephants mourning the death of a baby elephant.
iStock.com/brittak

Although we can't know exactly what elephants feel and how they process death, they seem to show signs that they experience grief when a member of their family (or another elephant) dies. When they see a dead elephant, they may vocalize, use their trunks to "hug" the dead animal, or stay with the carcass for hours. Some elephants have also tried to bury the dead body by covering it in leaves and soil.

8. Trained elephants fight fires in Indonesia.

Elephant with water spewing out of its trunk.
Ishara S.KODIKARA, AFP/GettyImages

You probably won't see an elephant riding on a fire truck anytime soon, but elephants in Indonesia are a vital part of fighting fires. In 2015, East Sumatra was plagued with multiple fires over a period of several months, so 23 trained elephants from a conservation center went to work. Carrying water pumps and hoses, the elephants helped patrol the land and made sure that new fires weren't ignited.

9. You might see them stroll through your hotel's lobby in Zambia.

An elephant walks into the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia.
An elephant walks into the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia.
Lars Plougmann, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Some guests at Mfuwe Lodge in the African country of Zambia get an unusual animal sighting before they even leave the lobby. Each year between October and December, families of elephants walk through the lodge's reception area to eat wild mango from a tree in the courtyard. The elephants' giant size and seeming indifference to their hotel lobby surroundings make for quite a striking sight.

10. In 2015, scientists recorded them yawning for the first time.

An elephant's open mouth.
iStock.com/filrom

Although scientists speculated that elephants probably yawn, scientists from the University of California, Davis captured the first video of an elephant yawning. If you enjoy watching sleepy animals stretching and yawning, this is for you. Warning: extreme cuteness ahead.

11. Elephants starred in YouTube's first-ever video.

Man taking a photo of an elephant on his phone.
iStock.com/iudmylaSupynska

On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim made internet history when he uploaded the first video to a certain nascent video-sharing website. Karim, one of YouTube's founders, posted an 18-second scene of himself standing in front of elephants at a zoo. In the video, he speaks about how cool the elephants' long trunks are. As of August 2018, it has more than 53 million views.

12. They snack on old Christmas trees.

Two elephants snacking on pine trees.
VADIM KRAMER, AFP/Getty Images

Zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin, a zoo in Germany, feed unsold Christmas trees to their elephants in early January. The trees are certified pesticide-free, and the elephants seem to enjoy their special snack. Berlin isn't the only place where elephants eat Christmas trees, though. Zoos in Prague also treat their elephants to the tasty conifers.

This story originally ran in 2017.

The 20 Most Pet-Friendly Cities in America

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images
Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Pet parents have to look at more than just commute times and real estate prices when finding a new place to live. Factors like walkability, the number of parks, and the availability of pet sitters all dictate how comfortable a new city will be for dogs and their owners. If you're looking to make a move with your pooch, pet-sitting site Rover recently teamed up with real estate website Redfin to determine the best cities for dog lovers.

Together, the companies looked at a number of different metrics, like how easy it is to walk in each city, the concentration of dog walkers and sitters there, and the number of homes for sale with the word dog in the listing. And to measure the quality of a city's pet services, Rover broke down the total hours, minutes, and distance per walk given by the dog walkers in its system.

The report found there are dog-friendly cities across the country. Seattle ranked at the very top, followed by Chicago, Denver, and Manhattan. Cities throughout the South, including Austin, Houston, and Atlanta, also made the list, as did a handful of places in California (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego).

You can check out the full round-up of dog-friendly cities below. And when you're ready to make your move, here are some tips for finding a pet-friendly apartment.

  1. Seattle, Washington

  1. Chicago, Illinois

  1. Denver, Colorado

  1. Manhattan, New York

  1. Washington, D.C.

  1. Portland, Oregon

  1. Los Angeles, California

  1. Brooklyn, New York

  1. San Francisco, California

  1. San Diego, California

  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  1. Houston, Texas

  1. Austin, Texas

  1. Arlington, Virginia

  1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  1. Alexandria, Virginia

  1. Dallas, Texas

  1. Atlanta, Georgia

  1. San Jose, California

  1. Nashville, Tennessee

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