Red Crabs Migration – new stamp issue of Christmas Island

August 3rd, 2014

The Christmas Island red crab is by far the most obvious of the 14 species of land crabs found on Christmas Island. It is estimated that tens of millions of these bright red land crabs live in their preferred shady sites all over the island.

At the beginning of the wet season (usually October / November), most adult Red Crabs suddenly begin a spectacular migration from the forest to the coast, to breed and release eggs into the sea. The rains provide moist overcast conditions for crabs to make their long and difficult journey to the sea.

The timing of the migration breeding sequence is also linked to the phases of the moon, so that eggs may be released by the female Red Crabs into the sea precisely at the turn of the high tide during the last quarter of the moon. It is thought that this occurs at this time because there are the least difference between high and low tides. Sometimes there are earlier and later migrations of smaller numbers of crabs but all migrations retain this same lunar rhythm.

The main migration commences on the plateau and can last up to 18 days. Masses of crabs gather into broad "streams" as they move toward the coast, climbing down high inland cliff faces, and over or around all obstacles in their way, following routes used year after year for both downward and return migrations. Movement peaks in the early morning and late afternoons when it is cooler and there is more shade. If caught in open areas, in unshaded heat, the crabs soon lose body water and die.

On occasion of such spectacular ritual Christmas Island introduces a set of stamps, which will be available beginning from 12th August.