Thursday 14 December 2017

Cuba's Bay of Pigs invaded again ... by millions of land crabs

Crabs cross a highway on their way to spawn in the sea in Playa Giron, Cuba. Photo: Reuters
Crabs cross a highway on their way to spawn in the sea in Playa Giron, Cuba. Photo: Reuters

Kim Ripoll, Havana

It's happened again. Cuba's Bay of Pigs has been overrun, this time not by US-backed anti-Castro forces, but by millions of red, yellow and black land crabs.

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 realising 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.

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 80pc of Cuba's endemic birds, along with crocodiles and other wildlife, can be observed. With its 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 tourism boom since the US-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-year-old French tourist Emilie Lannegrand, adding it was "a little heartbreaking" to see so many crushed on the road.

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. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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