Andros has the largest free roaming population of land crabs in The Bahamas. The creation in 2002 of Land Crab National Park in Central Andros helped to save the crab population for generations to come.
The life cycle of the land crab is controlled by the sea, although they live inland, it is the sea that maintains
them. Land crabs migrate from the forest to the sea to wash their eggs during the heavy summer rains. They grow to a maximum size of 5 inches, not including the claw. Land crabs grow by shedding their hard exoskeleton, before a new one grows they absorb water. This increases their size then a new hard exoskeleton shell grows back, this is called moulting.
Land crabs have sensitive eyes. During the day they use light and at night they identify the brightest part of the horizon. They also use vibrations, landmarks and prevailing winds to guide them to the sea.
Land crabs are mostly vegetarian, eating buttonwood, tallyberies, seagrapes, mangroves and cocoplums.
Threats to the Land Crabs
The biggest threat to the land crab is the destruction of their habitat caused by land development, road construction and fire. Land crabs are also susceptible to over harvesting.
Androsians love their crabs
On Andros crabs are a traditional food source and provide an economic boost during the summer months. The white and black crabs are caught, penned and fed with coconuts and cocoplums for at least two weeks. Then they are transported by mail boats and plane to the capital to be sold as a local delicacy.
“We Androsians are proud of our crab catching ways, digging potato attitude and our bone fishing sense,” explained Rochelle Mackey, an Androsian crab lover.
Crabbing is very important in the life of Androsians. The crabbing season usually starts from late May and goes until the end of August. The rainy season is eagerly awaited and the gathering storm clouds give good reason to celebrate because the Andros ‘bank’ is opening.
Crabbing has proved to be a cornerstone of the Andros economy. The crabbing merchants of Andros have put their children through college and built themselves homes.
‘The art of crabbing may seem simple, however it requires a tremendous amount of skill,’ Rochelle explains. ‘The swiftness of the hand, the quickness of the eyes, the agility of the foot all make a difference, you see the crab is a unique animal. It does not depend on its eyes alone, for it senses motion and sound. They can move in any direction in a moment’s notice and their biters can snap as fast as lightening. So you’d better watch where you are shoving your hands because the next thing you would hear is ……… ‘ouch he gat me !!’