Think Australia’s biggest traffic snarls are in Sydney or Melbourne? Then think again.
Rangers on Christmas Island are in the midst of managing Australia’s most delicate traffic operation, helping 50 million crabs on their annual migration to the sea to spawn.
“There’s a lot of work to do to help them on their way safely, to divert them from traffic,” says Rob Muller, the Chief Ranger at Christmas Island National Park whose team has “spent months” meticulously preparing for the annual migration.
To reduce the number of crabs squashed under car tyres, Muller and his team of dedicated rangers have rolled out over 20 kilometres of plastic barriers to funnel crabs away from the island’s roads and under 31 carefully constructed crab underpasses.
Although thousands of red crabs queueing to crawl under a purpose-built grids is a spectacular sight for visitors to tropical outpost, it’s the island’s only crab bridge which has become a major hit with tourists.
“Sydney can have its Harbour Bridge and San Francisco its Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s our crab bridge which is currently wooing tourists from all over the globe,” says Linda Cash of the Christmas Island Tourism Association, referring to a 5-metre high bridge, complete with specially-designed surface to prevent crabs slipping off, which spans the island’s busiest road.
“Nature lovers, many of whom have had witnessing the crab migration on their bucket list for years, are flocking to the Crab Bridge to see thousands of crabs scuttle up and over the curious crossing,” explains Ms Cash, who adds, “the ubiquitous crabs take the most direct route possible from their burrows in the rainforest terraces down to the coast, turning roads, the golf course (where there’s a penalty stroke should your ball accidentally hit one!) and beaches into a crimson carpet.”
Even the school bus stops short of the school to avoid the high numbers of crabs that migrate through the school grounds where specially-designed devices have been installed to stop the crabs marching through the classrooms.
“In recent years actions of the community has really complemented the great conservation efforts of the rangers to reduce to number of crabs killed on the roads,” says Ms Cash, who adds “there’s a real appreciation of the importance of the crabs to both our fragile island ecosystem and our nature-based tourism industry.”
“The local radio station even broadcasts crab bulletins to advise on the crabs’ latest movements and roads where the crab numbers are thickest have been closed,” explains Ms Cash, who has witnessed the migration many times but is still mesmerised by the spectacle.
“You can never take it for granted, no matter how many times you see it – it’s simply awe inspiring,” she says.
The female crabs are expected to spawn en-masse and release billions of larvae into the sea on 6 January 2016, and then march back to their forest burrows, “so anyone who visits the island in the next six weeks or so will be lucky enough to witness at least part of this remarkable migration,” add Ms Cash.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Linda Cash at the Christmas Island Tourism Association on 0439215001 or [email protected]
- The Christmas Island Media Image Library has a selection of crab migration images. It is available at: http://www.christmas.net.au/about/christmas-island-tourism-association/media-library.html
- Regular updates on the crab migration, provided by The Australian Government’s Director of National Parks, are at:http://www.christmas.net.au/experiences/red-crab-migration.html
- Virgin Australia fly twice a week to Christmas Island ex Perth.
Did You Know? Celebrated naturalist Sir David Attenborough describes the mass march of the Christmas Island red land crabs to the coast to mate as one of the most spectacular annual migrations on the planet.