Crab Outbreak Handicaps Golfers

Golf is hard enough, with water hazards and sand traps peppering the course, but on little Christmas Island, 1,600 miles northwest of Australia, players must avoid hundreds of four-and-a-half-inch red crabs migrating to and from the ocean during their breeding season. Local rules at the Christmas Island Golf Club, which happens to be smack-dab in the crabs’ migration path, stipulate that golfers must play around the crustaceans as if they were any other hazard. For example, says Christmas Island National Park manager Max Orchard, if a golfer is on the green and a crab knocks his or her ball into the hole, it’s considered “in.” Each year, starting around November, more than 150 million red crabs that inhabit the island’s rainforest make the journey to the ocean to mate, frequently crossing busy roads and walking through yards and houses on their way. Vehicles kill as many as 2 million of the crabs each year, although road closures and crab crossing signs have helped reduce the carnage. Once the crabs reach the ocean, the males dig burrows and return to the forest, while the females, each laden with up to 100,000 eggs, stay for 12 to 13 days and then spawn.—Shawn Query, from Audubon magazine

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”