By the millions — it’s how a certain group of red land crabs migrate to the sea; an incredible sight in nature that not many get to see.
Well, if you’ve heard of Christmas Island, a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean which earned its name because it was discovered on Christmas Day (25 December 1643), then you must have heard about the millions of crabs that live there; where the climate is tropical and compares to a rain forest which is ideal for the red crabs.
In November of 2014, Gary Tindale, a 53-year-old IT specialist and amateur photographer from Perth, was able to capture the start of the migration and saw ‘the crabs just pour out of the jungle and take over’; as per his words.
Literally speaking, those millions of crabs took over roads and anywhere they could march simultaneously towards the sea on Christmas Island.
The weeks-long migration typically occurs when 14 species of crabs leave the large monsoonal forests of the island and head towards the ocean to seek a breeding ground, shares Daily Mail.
Of the 14 species, the most noticeable are the red crabs. However, not all of the crabs are red though. There are the occasional orange ones and the rare purple crabs.
According to Parks Australia, the migration typically occurs between October and December, coinciding with the wet season. Moreover, the crabs rely on certain phases of the moon to help with the reproductive process, added Parks Australia.
It was a spectacular experience, according to Tindale, to see millions of those fire-colored creatures marching to the sea to breed more of their kind; a sea of red moving along 2,500km north-west of Perth, from the forests to the Indian Ocean where the crustaceans will mate.
He also shared that in a matter of few weeks, the spawn return and a shimmering carpet of small tiny one inch crabs returns to the jungle.’
Linda Cash, Christmas Island Tourism Association marketing manager, told News Australia: “I have seen it for 10 years and every time I see it I am just totally amazed. The sound, you can imagine millions and millions of crabs sort of crawling across the island, so the sound is quite extraordinary.”
They are so many that roads have to be closed and the island is brought to a standstill.
What do they eat?
As shared by the Christmas Island Tourism Association, red Crabs diet consists mainly of fallen leaves, fruits, flowers and seedlings; preferring fresh green leaves but will eat any fallen leaves. They are not solely vegetarian, however, and will eat other dead crabs and birds, the introduced Giant African snail and palatable human rubbish if the opportunity presents itself.
Are they edible?
Like many of us who eat crabs and get to see their overwhelming number, the question pops up – can they be eaten?
Kidz World tells us NO. Red crabs aren’t the kind of crabs you get at a seafood restaurant. They aren’t edible.
Those who live in the island do not want to get rid of the crabs despite their being inedible. In fact, the locals there consider it a privilege to witness or assist this great natural event which is described by many as phenomenal.
Watch the video uploaded by National Geographic Channel Australia:
Here’s another from the Christmas Island Tourism: