Crabs in­vade Cuba’s Bay of Pigs

Metro USA (New York) - - News -

Cuba’s Bay of Pigs has been in­vaded again, this time not by U.S.-backed anti-Cas­tro forces, but by millions of red, yel­low and black land­crabs.

Each year, af­ter the first spring rains, the crabs march for days from the sur­round­ing forests to the bay on Cuba’s south­ern coast to spawn in the sea, wreak­ing havoc along the way.

At dawn and dusk they emerge, scut­tling sideways to­ward the sea, climb­ing up house walls and car­pet­ing the coastal road that curves around the bay. The stench of crushed crab fills the air and their sharp shells punc­ture car tires.

“Thirty to 40 can en­ter with­out you even re­al­iz­ing it,” said Edian Vil­la­zon, who runs a food hut op­po­site the sea, which does not serve up crab meat. Cubans believe this type is toxic. “We have to al­ways keep the door shut.”

The Bay of Pigs, where in 1961 Cuban ex­iles landed in a failed at­tempt to end Fidel Cas­tro’s revo­lu­tion, lies within a na­tional park where 80 per­cent of Cuba’s en­demic birds, along with croc­o­diles and other wildlife, can be ob­served.

With its deep sink­holes, coral reefs and turquoise wa­ters, the bay is known as one of Cuba’s best spots for div­ing. Vis­i­tors have spiked in re­cent years, in tan­dem with the over­all tourism boom since the U.S.-Cuban de­tente.

“It’s very sur­pris­ing and im­pres­sive to see so many crabs in one go and to watch them cross­ing so quickly,” said 36-yearold French tourist Em­i­lie Lan­negrand, adding it was “a lit­tle heart­break­ing” to see so many crushed on the road.

As cars speed by, some swerv­ing to avoid the 10-legged crus­taceans, the cracks of cara­paces zing through the air.

That does not threaten the sur­vival of the two pro­lific species, Ge­carci­nus ruri­cola and lat­er­alis, which are not en­demic to Cuba, said Jorge Luis Jimenez, a sci­ence min­istry of­fi­cial who works in the park.

Sim­i­lar crab mi­gra­tions oc­cur in other parts of Cuba at the same time of the year, as well as in some other special ecosys­tems such as Australia’s Christ­mas Is­land.

At the Bay of Pigs, the adult crabs re­turn to their forest bur­rows af­ter re­leas­ing clouds of eggs and are joined a cou­ple of

months later by the baby crabs which hatched at sea, said Jimenez.

For lo­cals, the crab in­va­sion is good busi­ness.

Ito Molina, 45, said tourists would hap­pily pay $10 for tire re­pair, a princely sum com­pared with the av­er­age state salary of around $25 per month.

For patches, he ap­plies con­doms, which get put to many uses in Cuba given how cheap and read­ily avail­able they are.

GETTY IM­AGES

Red me­nace: Crabby in Cuba

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