Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tatos the Terror Crab

Tatos is the local name, but we know it better as Coconut or Robber Crab (Birgus latro). It is reputed to be able to rip apart a whole coconut with its formidable claws; (they are very strong indeed, and the only way to get them to let go, is to tickle its belly, I'm told).

Its only real enemy here is human; this one was the first I've seen in 12 years on this island, and my first thought was to eat it.
This was brought to me a few days ago, and the next day, another smaller one.

This is a juvenile; its tail has not yet acquired its armour, and its two claws are not yet 'straight'. It betrays its youth, which was spent as a hermit crab, in a shell.

At first I kept them in an improvised cage made from two thicknessess of coiled chicken wire with a closure of a single thickness over each end. Hearing a noise later in the evening, I found the big crab halfway out of a hole it had cut in one end of the cage, so I up-ended the cage, and put a pastry board and a couple of heavy books on top of the hole.

That night at about 1:30am, hearing a scraping noise in one corner of the bedroom, I saw the big crab trying to climb the bedroom wall. I got it off the wall with the help of my large cooking spoon, and it faced me off about a foot away, so I whacked it on the head with my spoon. It ran, with astonishing speed, backwards under my bed. No way was I going to crawl under there in the dark, so it stayed there until 7:30 the next morning, when I'd accumulated enough courage to tackle it. (Or rather, I'd told Ron to pick it up).

An here's Uncle Dick breathlessly explaining the Coconut Crab.

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