A nearly 5-pound coconut crab was found crawling down a busy boulevard in Oahu, Hawaii, on Dec. 21, which marked the first sighting of the crustacean since 1989.
After discovering the crab, Moanalua resident Holly Cantere boxed up the creature and delivered it to the Department of Agriculture. Though it is now in the agency’s possession, it’s unclear where the crab originated from, since it’s illegal to possess this type of hermit crab in Hawaii.
“Three feet is as big as a trash can. Literally, as big as a trash can,” Rob Toonen, professor at Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “That’s why people are worried about having it show up here. A crab that big can do damage if it’s wandering around trying to find things to eat.”
Toonen added that a coconut crab infestation would have a huge effect on Hawaii’s ecosystem, which is why they’re normally only imported for research by universities or government agencies. Studies of the crab require approval from the Hawaii Board of Agriculture before they can begin.
“They’ll raid people’s trash cans. Eat native birds. Eat juvenile plants. And tear up the landscape if they’re here,” Toonen said. “The idea of that crawling around in their backyard is not going to be very pleasant to most people in Hawaii.”
Coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial arthropods in the world, and can grow as big as 9 pounds and 3 feet wide. They acquired their name because while humans need a machete to tear into a coconut, the crabs can merely use their pincers to crack one open.
The newly discovered crab is now in quarantine. Once cleared, it will be transported to the Honolulu Zoo.