When we were travelling around the province of Romblon I was happy to see a hermit crab as big as my fist, but after walking 3 meters away from it I saw another one but this time it was housed inside a small blue plastic bottle.
It was alarming to see such a humble creature taking shelter on litter.
I have heard a lot of environmentalists say that you should not pick up shells and bring them home as souvenir because it disturbs the ecosystem. What they said did not appeal to me because it was too vague. There were no concrete examples on what may happen if I pick up a shell or not. Unfortunately, Mother Nature showed me a real, concrete and specific example of what will happen.
There are 3 things that are wrong with the above photo.
1. Plastic Shell
The hermit crab sheltered on a small plastic bottle because people (tourist or not) were picking up shells to the point of near depletion making the hermit crab look for an alternative shelter. Due to irresponsible people who throw their garbage everywhere, plastic bottles, glass jars and even deodorant caps were used as the hermit crab’s shelter.
The problem starts with people who innocently deprive the hermit crab of its shelter by picking shells up, bringing them home to be placed on a shelf only for it to collect dust and quickly be forgotten.
Somehow, thanks to the garbage the hermit crab still has an alternative. But still, be responsible on where you throw your garbage. Best if you don’t create garbage at all.
2. Size of natural shell
Do you think the hermit crab with the natural shell on the picture could get its whole body inside?
Whenever I see little hermit crabs they have shells that could fit their whole body inside protecting their whole body, especially the soft parts, from external elements. For bigger hermit crabs I have not seen lately one that could fit inside its shell.
Unfortunately, the bigger the shell the more attractive it is to people. The bigger the shells the higher price it sells too. The bigger the shell the more likely it would no longer be available for hermit crabs to take refuge on.
3. Touching the hermit crab
A simple approach to a small hermit crab would make it tuck itself inside its shell because it senses danger. Sensing danger stresses the hermit crab. How much more if you pick it up and move it around? It’s like you being approached by a ferocious big bear that picks you up and swings you around.
We held the hermit crab because I wanted to take its picture while showing its relative size but that is not a sufficient excuse for me to disturb it. I should have thought of other ways like putting a coin beside it. For this I am sorry.
Environmentalists warned us that throwing your garbage anywhere and picking up shells will disturb the ecosystem. I’m not telling you that it will disturb the ecosystem because it already has been disturbed.
Stop picking shells on the shore.
Stop throwing your garbage anywhere.
Stop buying from the girl who sells sea shells by the sea shore.
Stop depriving the hermit crabs of their natural homes.
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— Lakas ng Trip (@LakasNgTrip) June 21, 2012