A visitor to tropical Christmas Island has had a very close encounter with a colossal crustacean well known for its thieving tendencies.
Mark Pierrot was game enough to handle the monstrous coconut crab, known locally as a “robber crab”, on a recent visit to the small Australian territory.
Christmas Island hosts more than one million coconut crabs – the largest land arthropods in the world – keeping locals on their toes.
“The reason they’re called robber crabs is because they steal everything,” Christmas Island marketing manager Linda Cash told AAP.
“If you leave something lying around, you can be pretty sure that a robber crab will take it away.”
Ms Cash said the crabs, which can grow up to one metre, were known to steal workers’ tools, including shovels and drills as well as food.
“There’s an urban myth that one actually stole a rifle off some of the defence force personnel on the island,” she said.
There are 20 species of crab on Christmas Island, 1500km off the West Australian coast, the most common being the red crab, with an estimated population of about 40 million.