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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Australian roaches acquire pet status
cockroach
Pet cockroaches are not the sewer types
Australians looking for a little creature company in their urban homes are shunning the dog and cat in favour of a more economical pet - the cockroach.

Workers in Australia's pet industry say the demand for insects as pets has risen in the past five years because of more cramped urban living conditions.

Cockroaches are particular favourites, especially as the largest of the species is native to Australia.

"Admittedly they are a bit of an unusual pet," John Olive, one of the major suppliers of giant cockroaches to the Australian pet market, told the Reuters news agency.

"But the kids can play with them without getting hurt and they are very low maintenance."

Suppliers and pet shop owners are keen to point out that the pet cockroaches are not the brown-winged pests which may be seen feasting on rubbish or scurrying under kitchen units.

Macro bugs

The cockroach believed to be most suited to pet life is the giant burrowing variety - or rhinoceros cockroach - that is native to Australia, and found in the warm, north-eastern state of Queensland.

They're clean, they're not stinky at all and there really is nothing horrible about them except for the name cockroach
Sue Hasenpusch
Australian Insect Farm
These gigantic cockroaches, officially called Macropanesthia Rhinoceros, grow as big as the palm of a hand, measuring about 80 millimetres (3.15 inches) and weighing 35 grams (1.2 ounces).

They are also known to live up to 10 years.

Some pet shops rename the creatures "litter bugs", "rain beetles" or "macrobugs" to escape the cockroach stigma.

Supplier Sue Hasenpusch, from another supplier, the Australian Insect Farm, told Reuters: "These really are charming creatures. They're clean, they're not stinky at all and there really is nothing horrible about them except for the name cockroach."

Insects have long been popular pets in Japan, where live beetles can be bought from vending machines, and stick insects are popular in the UK.

Pet names

Cockroach pets can be kept in a medium sized tank with a few inches of sandy soil and be fed dry eucalyptus leaves.

One firms sells "giant litter bug" kits, which include an insect house, sand, some food and three young little bugs, for $71.50 Australian dollars ($45).

Some owners say they enjoy being stroked and will respond if called by name.

Peter Nobbs, executive officer of Australia's pet welfare group, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), said urban living often prevented people from keeping a dog or cat but insects or small reptiles were ideal for life in an apartment.




SEE ALSO:
Roach menace grips Beijing
21 Dec 00  |  Asia-Pacific
Cockroaches found in takeaway
01 May 03  |  Manchester
Mother's 'cockroach hell' flat
31 May 02  |  England
Hog heaven for Australian pig trio
24 Apr 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Largest fossil cockroach found
09 Nov 01  |  Science/Nature
Country Profile: Australia
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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