Christmas island wildlife, Asian or Australian

This 2017 video says about itself

One Hundred Million Crabs | The Trials of Life | BBC Earth

On Christmas Island, red crabs migrate en masse in order to spawn a new generation into the Indian Ocean.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Christmas Island discovery redraws map of life

March 23, 2020

The world’s animal distribution map will need to be redrawn and textbooks updated, after researchers discovered the existence of ‘Australian’ species on Christmas Island.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Jonathan Aitchison said the finding revises the long-held understanding of the location of one of biology and geography’s most significant barriers — the Wallace line.

“The Wallace line — named after its discoverer Alfred Russel Wallace — delineates major biological division separating the species with Asian origins from those with Australasian ones,” Professor Aitchison said.

“It runs along the narrow seaways separating Bali from Lombok, and Borneo from Sulawesi.

“To the west are the tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses and orang-utans of Eurasia and to the east, the marsupials and monotremes that are synonymous with Australia.”

Working 1000 kilometres west of the conventional trace of Wallace line, on Christmas Island, Professor Aitchison and his colleagues, Dr Jason Ali from the University of Hong Kong and Professor Shai Meiri from the University of Tel Aviv, noted species with Australasian origins.

“Unexpectedly, half of Christmas Island’s land mammal and land reptile species — two rats, two skinks and one gecko — have a genetic heritage to Australia’s side of the divide,” Dr Ali said.

“It was a highly surprising discovery.

“The ancestors of these species would have most likely have been washed over on uprooted trees of vegetation mats and transported in by a major oceanic current known as the Indonesian Throughflow.

“The Indonesian Throughflow is part of the global heat conveyor belt, and follows deeper waters that delineate the Wallace line.

“It’s caused by the westernmost Pacific Ocean surface topography being slightly higher than its Indian Ocean counterpart.

“That’s right — it’s a little mind-bending — but the ‘sea-level’ varies slightly in different parts of the world.”

Professor Aitchison said the species’ journey must have occurred within the last five million years, as this is when Christmas Island emerged to form a new landmass.

“Christmas Island existed as a coral atoll from about 40 to 17 million years ago,” Professor Aitchison said.

“But in response to a tectonics phenomenon originally described by Darwin, it subsided beneath the ocean surface and disappeared.

“It re-surfaced only five million years ago thanks to some flexing tectonic plates — 300 to 350 kilometres to the south of where it is now located — from then on land plants and animals could begin to establish new populations.

Christmas Island is a strange and unique place, not just because of its geological history, but also its biological history.

“We’re excited to see what other weird and wonderful discoveries are ahead.”

Christmas Island crab steals expensive camera

This video says about itself:

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Robber crab‘ steals expensive research equipment

Western Sydney University Doctor of Philosophy candidate Annabel Dorrestein had been using the expensive camera as part of her research project on Christmas Island.

Dutch Ms Dorrestein used the camera for research on Christmas Island flying-foxes (Pteropus melanotus natalis).

120 million crabs on Christmas Island

This video from Christmas Island says about itself:

120 Million Crabs Spawning On One Beach | Trials Of Life | BBC Earth

In this classic clip, David Attenborough witnesses millions of crabs coming together for their annual spawning.

Christmas Island wildlife threatened by mining

This video says about itself:

10 November 2011

A short video of Christmas Island and its unique wildlife. Truly one of the most beautiful places in Australia.

From BirdLife:

15 Dec 2017

Don’t Ruin Christmas: mining threatens wildlife haven Christmas Island

Home to a unique and rich diversity of life – including five bird species found nowhere else – charmingly-named Christmas Island is one of nature’s greatest presents to Australia and the world. But new phosphate mining proposals threaten devastation. The Australian Government must choose to conserve this incredible biodiversity hotspot.

Around 1,500 kilometres north-west of the Australian mainland, the limestone-capped peak of an ancient volcano rises 5000 metres from the floor of the Indian Ocean. Closer to Java and Singapore than to Australia, Christmas Island has never been connected to any other landmass. This isolation fostered the evolution of a truly unique diversity of life. The island is home to 254 wildlife taxa and is recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area critical for conserving life on earth.

Internationally renowned for its spectacular annual Red Crab migration (rated as one of the top ten wildlife experience by Sir David Attenborough), Christmas Island is also home to five bird species and six subspecies that breed nowhere else on the planet. Out of all of them, the island’s two endemic seabirds are the most threatened.

One of these birds, the Abbott’s Booby Papasula abbotti, is a curious and distinct seabird of ancient lineage – and, with its long ungainly wings and massive beak, it has been likened to the pterodactyl. Abbott’s Boobies are now only found on Christmas Island. But past clearing for the phosphate mine has left them less than 25 square kilometres of forest on the island to breed.

Similarly, the Critically Endangered Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi only breeds in one small area on the Island. It has the questionable honour of being one of the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species—up there with the rhino and the dugong. Both species may have fewer than 2,500 pairs left.

Island biodiversity is notoriously fragile. And nowhere exemplifies this better than Christmas Island, which is now considered an ‘extinction hotspot’.

Of the five species of mammal native to Christmas Island, three are now officially extinct, with the demise of the last Christmas Island Pipistrelle being one of the world’s best documented extinctions. This small bat was last recorded on the 27th of August 2009 during a failed rescue mission. The Christmas Island Shrew has not been seen since 1985, and is also presumed extinct. The only remaining indigenous mammal on the island, the Christmas Island Flying Fox, is also at risk of extinction. Likewise, four of the five species of reptile have been wiped off the island, with two now surviving only in captivity. It is also probable that seven plant and invertebrate species are extinct.

The clearing of forests for phosphate mining and the associated impacts of invasive species – introduced by lax quarantine – are the greatest threats to the island’s unique wildlife.

Mining activity has already cleared 25% of the island’s forest

An expert panel commissioned by the Australian Government reported in 2010 that ‘Christmas Island has undergone severe ecological stress from activities associated with mining that has cleared over 25% of the island area at one time or another.’

Put simply, the mining impact is irreversible and wholesale.

The ecosystem cannot recover from mining, which strips off the island’s phosphate-rich soil for export. Even if the intention was to replace the soil, doing so would do more harm than good by introducing further invasive pests. And it is not by chance that Abbott’s Booby are first in the firing line. The boobies nest on top of the tallest trees – and, of course, the tallest trees grow on soils rich in phosphate.

The impacts of mining are not restricted to the site of excavation. Even where the nesting trees are spared, boobies still suffer. The disruption of the primary forest canopy through mining exploration and tracks exposes booby nests to strong winds and creates turbulence which can eject the eggs and chicks. Furthermore, mining also exposes the remaining pristine forest to invasive species that degrade the ecosystem for all native wildlife.

Even beyond Christmas Island the mining harms ecosystems. The phosphate stripped from the island feeds oil palm plantations in South East Asia, aiding large scale rainforest destruction.

The mining activity is so short-sighted that, in a rare show of agreement, Australian Governments of all stripes have committed to transitioning away from mining on the island numerous times.

In 1987 Prime Minister Bob Hawke stopped the clearance of rainforest for mining, allowing only old spoil dumps to be reworked. The aim was to facilitate a soft transition away from mining for the island. Yet instead of planning a way out, a decade later Christmas Island Phosphates was angling unsuccessfully for new mines, and applied to clear more primary rainforest.

Even if the mine was approved, it would only provide an extra five years’ worth of income

In 2005, then Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt, stated: “We need to build a long-term, sustainable future for Christmas Island. Even if the mine was approved, it would only provide an extra five years’ worth of income, and it is critical that we learn from the mistakes [of phosphate mining] on Nauru [Island]. There are large parts of Christmas Island that are certainly a biological ark.”

Fortunately, then Environment Minister, now Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull rejected the mining proposal in 2007.

Unperturbed, in 2010 Christmas Island Phosphates even took the next Government’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett (of ‘Midnight Oil’ fame), to court over his decision to prevent further mining.

Three decades on, and after the likely extinction of another five vertebrate species, Christmas Island Phosphates is at it again. In 2016 application for phosphate mining exploration was put before the Australian Government. BirdLife Australia is taking a stand, making it clear in a formal submission that approving the exploration will destroy the habitat of a suite of birds already at high risk through habitat loss. These include the globally Endangered Abbott’s Booby, Vulnerable Christmas Boobook Ninox natalis, and the Near Threatened Christmas Imperial-pigeon Ducula whartoni and Christmas White-eye Zosterops natalis.

Also at risk are unique Christmas Island subspecies of White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus, Grey-capped Emerald-dove Chalcophaps indica, Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus and Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus.

Mining approval would not only do the island’s wildlife a disservice, but would also deprive its human population of a long-term economic future. Christmas Island Phosphates squanders the chances of the island to grow as a destination for high-end nature tourism at the doorstep of a fast-growing Asian market. In the global economy, tourism is responsible for one in every ten jobs, with ecotourism being its fastest-growing segment. Christmas Island has all the attributes of a premier nature tourism destination: outstanding wildlife, coral reefs, tropical rainforest, beautiful beaches and exquisite diving experiences. Yet mining directs investment away from this sustainable industry. And, worse, it destroys its main tourism assets.

The Australian Government has the power to stop this latest proposal. Because the exploration is on Crown Land, Christmas Island Phosphates needs Government approval to proceed. A decision on the exploration permission is imminent.

Earlier this year BirdLife Australia declared Christmas Island a Key Biodiversity Area in Danger and campaigned for the Government to rule out mining once and for all. We are now turning up the heat with a petition calling on Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to follow through on his 2007 convictions and put the future of the island beyond doubt by saying no to further mining on Christmas Island.

International pressure will play a key role in this campaign, since both Christmas Island Phosphates and the tourism trade rely on overseas business. Sign the petition and tell the Prime Minister of Australia: #DontRuinChristmas. Commit to safeguarding this unique rainforest by ending mining on Christmas Island and funding invasive species control.

How many more species need to go extinct before Australia steps up to its international obligations and saves the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean for future generations?

Read more about BirdLife Australia’s campaign and sign the petition here.

A hundred million crabs migrating

This video says about itself:

One Hundred Million Crabs – The Trials of Life – BBC Earth

16 October 2017

On Christmas Island, red crabs migrate en masse.

Christmas Island crab research

This video says about itself:

Science Screen Report: The Amazing Red Crab of Christmas Island

Christmas Island, discovered December 25, 1643, is just a spec of land in the Indian Ocean. The annual red crab migration at the beginning of the rainy season, however, is so massive it can be seen from the air. It has been named a wonder of the natural world. This program follows this terrestrial arthropod from its rainforest burrow, across dangerous landscape to the ocean to mate.

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers use GPS tracking to monitor crab behaviour

Crabs tracked by GPS

November 2012. German researchers used GPS satellites to monitor the long-term behaviour of land crab migration on Christmas Island. In cooperation with colleagues from the Zoological Institute at the University of Greifswald, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, used a GPS-based telemetric system to analyse movements of freely roaming robber crabs, which is the first large-scale study of any arthropod using GPS technology to monitor behaviour.

This analysis focused on the coconut crab, a terrestrial crustacean living on tropical islands in the Indo-Pacific. Weighing up to 4 kg, the giant robber crab is the world’s largest land-living arthropod. Its lifespan can reach 60 years. The study was carried out on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean which has a largely undisturbed population of about several hundreds of thousands coconut crabs.

55 crabs tracked

Between 2008 and 2011, 55 male robber crabs were equipped with GPS tags which successfully recorded more than 1,500 crab days of activity and followed some individual animals for as long as three months. Besides site fidelity with short-distance excursions, the data revealed long-distance movements between the coast and the inland rainforest. These movements are likely related to mating, saltwater drinking and foraging.

Homing crabs

The tracking patterns indicate path following as a main navigation strategy. Furthermore, translocation experiments showed that robber crabs are capable of homing over large distances. The search behaviour induced in these experiments suggests path integration to be another important navigation strategy.

The GPS tags were custom-made by e-obs GmbH (digital telemetry) in Munich. The devices can be programmed in such a way that they record GPS positions at intervals of one hour over a period of several months. The tag also contains an accelerometer to record movements in different (x, y, or z) directions and thus the activity of the crabs. Recorded data were downloaded by the scientists once a week via a radio link within a range of about 200 meters, so that the crabs were not disturbed. The devices send out radio impulses (pingers) in order to enable localization of the crabs via wireless connection using a high-sensitivity directional antenna. Similar devices were recently used in a study to monitor bird migration. The development of further miniaturized electronic devices and batteries should help to establish this method successfully for the study of even smaller animal species in the future.

The paper about this research is here.

Australians protest drowning of refugees

This video says about itself:

Australians protest over refugee boat accident

24 June 2012

Australia has ended a three-day search for survivors from a refugee boat accident off remote Christmas Island, with little hope for around 90 people still missing.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said on Saturday searches of the sea north of the island had failed to find any more survivors, with the last living person found on Thursday night.

Protesters have marched in Sydney asking whether the tragedy could have been prevented.

Andrew Thomas reports from Sydney.

By Oliver Campbell in Australia:

Many feared dead in Australian refugee disaster

23 June 2012

A refugee boat, thought to be carrying more than 200 people, and attempting to sail from Indonesia to Australia, was found capsized on Thursday, about 110 nautical miles north of Australia’s Christmas Island. Though reports remain unclear, it appears that between 90 and 100 people are missing, feared dead.

The bodies of three men have been recovered, while 109 people, including a 13-year-old boy, have been rescued and taken to Christmas Island, where they will be detained.

All of the passengers were reportedly male. Most were believed to be from war-torn Afghanistan. According to some reports, refugees clinging to pieces of debris were sighted as far as three nautical miles from the boat. Those who remain missing are in rough seas, and may not have life jackets.

The tragic loss of life is the latest in a series of disasters that flows directly from the Australian Labor government’s so-called “border protection” policy, which seeks to prevent asylum seekers entering Australia by boat, thus forcing desperate people to make increasingly hazardous journeys in a bid to escape detection.

Most recently, as many as 200 people drowned last December when a boat sank off the coast of East Java on its way to Australia. A year earlier, more than 50 asylum seekers died when a vessel known as SIEV 221 crashed against rocks off Christmas Island in December 2010.

As in all the past tragedies, unanswered questions have emerged about whether Australian authorities could have saved the passengers’ lives. At least 41 hours passed between the boat’s first reported distress call and when it was found capsized—plenty of time for a search and rescue operation.

Moreover, disparities exist between the timeline issued by the Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare and faxes received by the Indonesian search and rescue authorities from their Australian counterparts.

The second refugee boat sinking in less than a week has underscored the deadly consequences of the Australian government’s “border protection” regime: here.

Retired diplomat points to Australian culpability for refugee deaths: here.

The People Smuggler puts a human face on those involved in refugee boat voyages, and exposes myths peddled by the Australian government: here.

There is a bipartisan policy in Canberra of using indefinite detention in primitive conditions to deter all refugees from seeking asylum in Australia: here.

Indonesia demands suspension of Australian naval operations against refugees: here.

One Iranian asylum seeker was killed and 77 other detainees reportedly injured, two critically, in violent attacks by police and security guards against protesting refugees inside the Australian government’s detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Monday night. The horrific incident underscores the criminality and barbarism of the “border protection” regime that is defended by the entire political establishment in Australia: here.

Oil spill threatens Christmas Island wildlife

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Spill threatens endangered wildlife on island


10 Jan, 2012 03:00 AM

ENDANGERED bird, crab and fish species at Christmas Island could be catastrophically affected after a cargo vessel, MV Tycoon, broke up in rough conditions and began leaking hundreds of tonnes of fuel.

The general cargo vessel, registered as Panamanian, was loading phosphate from Christmas Island late on Sunday when four-metre swells dashed it against the seawall in Flying Fish Cove, the Australian Maritime Safety Association general manager, Toby Stone, said.

Authorities have estimated about 102 tonnes of intermediate fuel oil, 11,000 litres of lubricant oil, 32 tonnes of diesel oil and about 260 tonnes of phosphate were on board the vessel.

As conditions worsened yesterday afternoon, authorities were left on the beach as the ship broke in half and oil spilled into the ocean and was washed towards beaches.

The Australian Federal Police and navy personnel rescued 15 crew from the boat on Sunday.

The environmental science and policy co-ordinator at the Conservation Council of Western Australia, Nic Dunlop, said the impact on 17 species of endangered red land crabs, as well as birds and whale sharks, could be severe.

”The emissions from this sunken vessel including diesel and phosphate dust are potentially going to have a severe detrimental impact,” Mr Dunlop said.

The spill comes as red crabs move from the rainforest to the waters edge and release their eggs after the December rain.

“Now the homeward migration of millions of baby red crabs is going to involve swimming through diesel, oil and phosphate,” a University of WA marine biologist, Jean-Paul Hobbs, said.

How Christmas Island rats became extinct

This video is called Christmas Island crabs.

From PLoS ONE:

Historical Mammal Extinction on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) Correlates with Introduced Infectious Disease …


It is now widely accepted that novel infectious disease can be a leading cause of serious population decline and even outright extinction in some invertebrate and vertebrate groups (e.g., amphibians).

In the case of mammals, however, there are still no well-corroborated instances of such diseases having caused or significantly contributed to the complete collapse of species.

A case in point is the extinction of the endemic Christmas Island rat (Rattus macleari): although it has been argued that its disappearance ca. AD 1900 may have been partly or wholly caused by a pathogenic trypanosome carried by fleas hosted on recently-introduced black rats (Rattus rattus), no decisive evidence for this scenario has ever been adduced.

Using ancient DNA methods on samples from museum specimens of these rodents collected during the extinction window (AD 1888–1908), we were able to resolve unambiguously sequence evidence of murid trypanosomes in both endemic and invasive rats. Importantly, endemic rats collected prior to the introduction of black rats were devoid of trypanosome signal. Hybridization between endemic and black rats was also previously hypothesized, but we found no evidence of this in examined specimens, and conclude that hybridization cannot account for the disappearance of the endemic species. This is the first molecular evidence for a pathogen emerging in a naïve mammal species immediately prior to its final collapse.

See also here.

BiologyCentric: Scientists discover key to Christmas Island’s red crab migration: here.

US Guantanamo style torture camp on Christmas Island near Australia?

Location of Christmas IslandBy Kerry Smith:

Australia’s Guantanamo?

24 November 2006

“A visit by US officials has raised fears on Christmas Island that an immigration detention centre could be turned into a Guantanamo-style prison”, the November 17 Melbourne Age reported.

Christmas Island is 2400 kilometres from Perth, 360km from Jakarta and nearly 2000km from Darwin.

The federal government is spending $240 million on the new detention centre.

“A group of about six [US defence officials] arrived by American plane and left on a commercial flight a week later … they took photos, and prepared a report for their masters in Washington”, Christmas Island shire president Gordon Thomson told the Age.

“The guys who came here were part of the military machine, one of them gave me a card which said he was based in Virginia and that is where the CIA is.

They were looking at a Guantanamo style prison.”

Christmas Island frigate bird

From Wikipedia on Christmas Island:

It has a unique natural topography and is of immense interest to scientists and naturalists due to the number of species of endemic flora and fauna which have evolved in isolation and undisturbed by human habitation.

Birds of Christmas Island: here.

What a shame to make such a beautiful island a scene of torture.

Amnesty International Chile: close down Guantanamo Bay.