Christmas Island red crab migration: 'Crab-mobile' car wheel attachment protects crabs from crush

'Crab mobile' protects Christmas Island's famous red crabs

Lodge owner Chris Bray has found a way to stop the crabs getting crushed by cars.

An innovative new form of transport has been created to protect the Christmas Island red crabs from tourists during their annual migration.

After noticing how many crabs were being crushed by tourists, eco-lodge owner Chris Bray invented the 'crab-mobile' - a crab-friendly 4WD to transport his guests to and from the lodge.

"I made a prototype two years ago and tested it last year. After making a few tweaks and improvements, the latest version was finished a week and a half ago," Mr Bray said. "If you can imagine little horseshoes on the front of the tyre, these work to lightly bump the crabs out of harm's way."

Mr Bray has been living on Christmas Island for the past two and a half years, during which time he opened Swell Lodge. Prior to this, he visited the island regularly as a nature photographer to watch the annual crab migration.

"In the morning and the evening the roads are absolutely thick with crabs," Mr Bray says. "It's a truly spectacular sight to see."

The red crabs have evolved to live on the land, but still need to hatch their young in water. In order to do this, an estimated 50 million crabs migrate to the ocean during their breeding season between late September and January.

Former Chief Ranger of the Christmas Island National Park Max Orchard said that, during this period, tourists pose a major threat.

"The crabs have to cross roads to migrate, and so a lot of them get killed by vehicles," Mr Orchard explains. "The national park has closed off a lot of the roads during the migration period. They have also developed crossings and bridges to protect the crabs, but you can't put them everywhere."

Because Mr Bray's lodge is usually closed off to traffic, his 'crab-mobile' allows full, safe access for visitors.

"It's pretty slow, but the guests love it." he says, "And it beats carrying suitcases and supplies through the jungle on foot, in the rain!"

See also: Army of spider crabs invades Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay