News & Opinion | July 8, 2018 9:00 am

The Colombian Army Is Dispatched to Protect Island Crab Migration

Black crabs are endemic to the Caribbean island of Providencia, which is part of Colombia.

Tourists row to a small island in Providencia, Colombia. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
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Only about 6,000 people live on the small Caribbean island of Providencia, which is part of Colombia, but every year, the Colombian military comes to the island to protect an army of black crabs during their brief migration period. The particular species, known as Gercarcinus ruricola, typically live on land but they need to go to the sea for breeding. The crabs have a black shell, red legs and yellow markings. They lay their eggs near the sea, incubate them for about two weeks and then enter the ocean for the larvae to hatch, writes Atlas Obscura. The black crabs are a traditional delicacy for the islanders.

“The black crab means a lot for our people,” explains Winston Arenas Jay, a 38-year-old tour guide who grew up in Providencia, according to Atlas Obscura. “They are part of who we are, part of our identity, part of our tradition, our culture.”

The crab’s population has been threatened in recent years, so the Colombian government has shipped the army to Providencia to guard the crabs when they migrate. Military checkpoints are set up across the island and officers from the “crab watch division” are equipped with automatic rifles. They guard sections of the road that have been blocked off from traffic.