Chagos Conservation Trust


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Coconut crabs

Coconut crab (c) Jon Slayer

The coconut crab (Birgus latro) is the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod, reaching over one metre in leg span and 3.5-4 kilos in weight. As a juvenile it behaves like a hermit crab and uses empty coconut shells as protection but as an adult this giant crab climbs trees and can crack through a coconut with its massive claws.

Despite its wide global distribution, it is rare in most of the areas it is found. It is primarily threatened by over-collection for food, but also as ornaments for sale to tourists and as bait for fish traps. Demand for coconut crabs as souvenirs is strong, and other threats include habitat destruction and predation from introduced species such as rats. The coconut crabs on Chagos constitute one of the most undisturbed populations in the world. An important part of their biology is the long distances their young can travel as larvae. This means the Chagos coconut crabs are a vital source for replenishing other over-exploited populations in the Indian Ocean region.