Man Designs Special Vehicle Device to Prevent Squishing Crabs During 'Spectacular' Migration

A man has come up with a simple but ingenious solution to protect crabs from being squished by vehicles on the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The island is known for its incredible migration of red crabs, millions of which make their way every year from the forest to the beach, where they breed.

"It's spectacular—one of the world's great animal migrations and even Sir David Attenborough lists it as one of his top 10 natural wonders on Earth," Christmas Island resident Chris Bray told Newsweek. "So many crabs! All so chilled out and relaxed—they never pinch you—so many of them that you can hear them walking even."

But as the crabs migrate from the forest to the beach they often have to cross roads, and this can put them at risk of being run over.

"I have just created 'Swell Lodge'—a luxury eco-retreat on the sea cliffs on the far side of this island, inside the national park," he said. "When the crabs are in full migration, [the national park] closes the roads to allow the crabs safe passage."

"While some guests love to walk in through all the crabs, staff—as well as supplies, guests bags, and elderly guests, et cetera—are not able to walk in. So I had to develop this crab-safe attachment system—the 'crab-mobile—to enable us to keep running the lodge during migration, so we can get guests, supplies and staff to/from the lodge without impacting the crabs."

Bray created a set of attachments for his vehicle, which allows it to be driven along a road full of crabs without killing the animals.

"It's a pretty simple system," he said. "Basically there's a pivoted mount in front of each of the four wheels, from which drags a little deflector—like a mini snow-plow—in front of each wheel to deflect the crabs away from the wheel. Being pivoted it follows the contours of the ground, and has to be wide enough to allow the front wheels to turn and steer."

"A few people have tried a few things over the years apparently, but I gather none have really worked," he said. "[The national park] says this is the first invention that actually does the trick."

In addition to the initial migration, Bray says the return of the baby crabs is just as impressive.

red crabs
The annual red crab migration on Christmas Island on 1, January 2007. James D. Morgan/Getty Images

"What's even more amazing though is the return of the baby crabs after they've been drifting around out at sea for months and return as a living red carpet that flows up into the jungle—but it only happens on some years. On others almost none make it back," he said.

Christmas Island is located around 220 miles south of the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, and around 960 miles northwest of the closest point on the Australian mainland. It has a population of nearly 2,000 people.

Man Designs Special Vehicle Device to Prevent Squishing Crabs During 'Spectacular' Migration | Tech & Science