The existence of coconut crabs on Green Island is under threat despite strenuous efforts over the past two years to rehabilitate them, experts said yesterday.
They said that with the increase of business activities on the island, the number of coconut crabs has decreased rapidly, dwindling to around 80 in the latest census three years ago.
They attributed the dramatic decrease in the number of crabs to the impact of tourism, the accidental killing of the crabs by motorcycles — a major form of transportation on the island — and people catching the crabs for different purposes.
The Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica in a census three years ago estimated that only around 80 coconut crabs were left on the island.
Since then, the researchers, the Coast Guard and local historical and cultural academics have adopted various protection measures, educational research and ecotourism approaches to try to rehabilitate the coconut crab population.
The experts said that with the rapid development of tourism, a large number of development projects has destroyed the habitats of the crabs, and the flood of tourists has also had an impact on the existence of the species.
To deal with the problem of the crabs being accidentally run over by motorcyclists, the experts built an “ecological corridor” around the Green Island lighthouse three years ago in a bid to keep tourists at a distance from the crabs, but the results have not been significant.
The coconut crab, or birgus latro, gets its name from its ability to crack coconuts with its strong pincers in order to eat the fruit. The crab is the only species of the genus birgus.
The crabs were once populous on Green Island, located 33km off Taitung.
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