Christmas cheer as the red crabs march begins
One of the world’s most fascinating migrations is now underway on Christmas Island in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories, capturing the attention of wildlife lovers across the world.
Each year, the first substantial rain of the wet season starts the march of tens of millions of red crabs from the forest to the coast to mate and spawn. The red crab migration is an amazing natural process determined by moon, tides, and weather.
Christmas Island is located 1500 km from the Australian mainland, where Christmas Island National Park staff have spent months preparing for the crabs’ big journey.
Working in collaboration with the community and local stakeholders, Parks Australia staff play a key role in protecting the crabs when they begin their famous journey.
These efforts include diverting traffic away from migrating crabs and erecting kilometres of temporary roadside barriers to channel millions of migrating crabs to the safety of underpasses and overpasses.
Christmas Island National Park has led key programs to protect the red crab population, including tackling yellow crazy ants through biological control of their main food source, and through island-wide baiting programs targeting ant supercolonies.
The effective suppression of yellow crazy ant supercolonies has allowed huge red crab migrations to take place with little impact from the ants.
Thanks to efforts like these, the red crab population has more than doubled in the past five years from 50 million to more than 100 million.
Quotes attributable to Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water:
“This iconic natural phenomenon is not just incredible to see, but a fantastic success story of how we can work together to better protect our precious native species.
“This happens each year because local groups, Park staff and experts work year-round to remove barriers and tackle threats like the highly invasive Yellow Crazy Ants.
“That’s why we’re investing more than $500 million to better protect our threatened plants and animals and combat invasive species.”
Quotes from Derek Ball, Park Manager, Christmas Island National Park:
“The wildlife on Christmas Island is extraordinary and like no other place in the world. The red crab is the island’s keystone species and the annual migration is a fascinating phenomenon that the entire community helps facilitate.
“To help the red crabs safely make their journey from the forest to the sea, national park staff install road barriers, crab bridges and undertake traffic management, with many members of the island community pitching in and helping out.
“Over many years we’ve also targeted the red crabs biggest threat, the invasive yellow crazy ant. By reducing their numbers, the red crab population numbers are higher than we’ve seen in decades which is an outstanding result not only for the red crabs, but for the entire island eco-system.”