How the Locals are helping the Endangered Coconut Crabs of Raja Ampat
While Raja Ampat is mostly known for the incredible marine diversity of the area. The area is also home to many incredible land-based species that are sure to impress all who see them. From the colourful birds of paradise, monitor lizards and the Cuscuses. One that stands out from the rest is the Coconut Crab.
While incredibly endangered this crab can still be found in the Raja Ampat area. Fortunately, the local community are actively involved with conservation and one of the best examples is the coconut crab and the story of local homestay owner Otto.
Otto is a well know member of the Papuan community of Raja Ampat, and his family has been in the area for generations. Along with the rest of his family Otto runs a remarkably successful homestay that in recent years has partnered with Meridian Adventure Dive to include diving and safe boat travel as the appeal for staying at his incredible homestay.
Nestled away on a private beach on the beautiful Friwen Islands. Otto offers his guests a true island experience when they visit his homestay. Besides offering an incredible stay to his guests Otto along with his family have taken a great interest and personal pride in the plight of the coconut crab and many other species in the area.
The coconut crab is the world’s largest terrestrial invertebrate. They can grow to be as large as one meter from the tip of their leg to the other and weigh a massive 4kg. It is no wonder that over the years these massive crabs have become a culinary delicacy. It is because of this popularity especially in Asian countries that they have become increasingly endangered species. As with many other species the coconut grab still found in their natural habitat in Raja Ampat.
These large crabs make their homes in the treetops of the coconut trees that are found all over Raja Ampat including the beautiful Friwin islands that Otto calls home. One small island that lies between the Northern and Southern Friwen Islands is of particular interest.
No larger than 50m from end to end this tiny island is home to the largest single group of coconut crabs in the area. An island that Otto and his family have personally decided to monitor and protect. When walking under the overhanging trees Otto playfully warns all visitors to keep an eye out for falling coconuts.
The crabs are known to drop coconuts from the treetops to weaken the husk before they crack them open with their massive pinchers. Coconuts account for the largest part of the crabs’ diet while the rest is made up of smaller crab species, rats, and even on occasion small birds. Despite their large size and disturbing dietary choices these crabs are surprisingly docile.
Otto and his family have also opened their home and private beach to offer guests an opportunity to see these crabs up close and personal. During this personal tour Otto and his sons collect a few coconut crabs from the treetops and bring them to their picturesque beach where he shows guests how these crabs nimbly climb the coconut trees, crack open coconuts and even feeds them small pieces of coconut. For the braver in the group, he will even show you how to hold the crabs carefully and safely for that perfect holiday Instagram post.
Pair this experience with a freshly prepared local lunch. Before heading to a dive or snorkel with the Meridian Team on the incredible Friwen Wall Reef that starts right at Otto’s wooden jetty to end off this unique experience.
While experiences like these give tourists to opportunity to see an otherwise elusive species up close and personal. The money that Otto and his family receive from these tours allow them to continue the conservation and educational efforts in preserving the Raja Ampat islands as the last true paradise on earth.
In the last few years, the local communities of Raja Ampat have greatly shifted towards sustainable tourism initiatives and do not look kindly to those who would jeopardise this. While there are strict no take policies on all the marine species in the area and many efforts to reduce the number of fisheries and non-eco- friendly development in the area and the surrounds. It is still the tourists’ responsibility to support the community and eco-friendly enterprises in the area. The ones who help support Otto and the many like him.
Situated in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Meridian Adventure Dive is a PADI 5 Star Resort and winner of the PADI Green Star award. Scuba divers enjoy our professional services that have become synonymous with both the PADI and Meridian Adventure names. Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s most captivating diving grounds and is truly a paradise on earth.
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