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The rare and threatened coconut crab is the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world, and has a body length of up to 40 cm, a weight of up to 4 kg and a leg span of almost 1 m. The front pair of legs has large claws, and next two pairs are walking legs allowing coconut crabs to climb vertical surfaces such as coconut trees. The coconut crab’s only predator is man, and this species has sadly been extirpated from some of its original habitats such as the mainlands of Australia and Madagascar.
Underground burrows and rock crevices, where it hides during the day. The coconut crab is purely terrestrial although it starts its life cycle as a larva in the ocean. Distribution: follows that of the coconut palm in the Indian and Central Pacific oceans. Spotted here on Chumbe Island (a coral rag island), getting into a compost tip.
In 1981, the coconut crab was listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, but a lack of biological data resulted into it being listed as data deficient since 1996. Research into this species in the East African region remains limited, but fishermen have reported decreasing sightings. Chumbe Island, a coral nature reserve off Zanzibar developed since 1991, hopes to assist in this by comparing Chumbe's healthy population with neighbouring findings, so that the coconut crab may gain international attention to support its protection. My thanks to forest ranger Chaga at Chumbe for showing me where to find coconut crabs during day time. Find out more about Chumbe Island at http://www.chumbeisland.com