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Hemsley Conservation Centre in Fairseat sells thousands of Valentine's cockroaches

By Jenna Dobbs

Things have gone "a bit bonkers" at a conservation centre after its Valentine's Day promotion hit global headlines.

The zoo offered wounded lovers the chance to get their own back this February, by naming a cockroach after their ex.

The Hemsley Conservation Centre in Fairseat, near Gravesend, attracted the attention of the world's media after the story appeared on KentOnline.

It now has more than 12,000 names for the 'bottom of the barrel' creatures, which will be proudly displayed on a board next to their enclosure.

Entrants paid £1.50 to take part, either for themselves or a friend, and receive a downloadable certificate commemorating their purchase.

The money will be used to fund projects at the zoo, opened by former Gravesend Grammar School pupil Adam Hemsley, who was the brains behind the special promotion.

This will include new enclosures and signage, expensive animal feed and improved facilities for visitors.

Operations manager Henry Weedon, 27, joined the centre in July 2015, just before it began welcoming its first visitors.

Zoo director Adam Hemsley, left, with operations manager Henry Weedon
Zoo director Adam Hemsley, left, with operations manager Henry Weedon

He said: "For a tiny zoo in Kent, it's gone a bit bonkers. After the story first appeared, it just snowballed.

"We can now do things that would have taken us a few years before.

"We've already installed new gravel pathways, which keep people's trainers from getting muddy and use special recycled plastic.

"While we don't buy animals, the money will allow us to invest in the care of new ones.

"I joined the zoo when it was in the building stages, with no animals, no plants and empty buildings, so it's been nice to see it transform."

A Valentine's cockroach at the Hemsley Conservation Centre
A Valentine's cockroach at the Hemsley Conservation Centre

Henry added that, while the centre started with around 200 cockroaches, the animals are such good breeders that they now have around 500.

He said: "They are really good lovers, but they don't get into committed relationships with their cockroach partner.

"We could have the same amount that people have adopted in the next few weeks."

While it is too late to have your ex's name displayed on the Valentine's board of shame, you can find out more about the zoo at hemsleyconservationcentre.com

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