Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Issue - Vanuatu's Coconut Crab Stamps

Vanuatu, 2008
Coconut Crab, 60v
Vanuatu is an island nation consisting of a cluster of islands located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. In February 2008, Vanuatu Post issued a two-stamp set featuring one of their native anthropods ... the coconut crab.

The coconut crab (Birgus latro) is the largest land-dwelling crab. It inhabits the South Pacific Ocean region and can be found in many locations throughout the region.

The most amazing feature of the coconut crab is what gives it its name -- they climb coconut trees and eat the coconuts. They have extremely powerful claws and are able to pinch into a coconut in order to feast on the inner flesh. The crab's claws are so powerful they can lift over 50 pounds (22 kg) during the crab's search for food.

Coconut crabs are massive; when fully grown they have a leg span of about 3 feet (1 meter) and weigh about 9 pounds (4 kg). They spend their life on land, and are the largest land-based crabs on earth.

Coconut crabs are long-lived; some have been known to have lived for more than 30 years.

Vanuatu, 2008
Coconut Crab, 500v
When young, the coconut crab lives as a hermit crab, finding discarded shells for a place to live. As the crab matures, it converts its soft shell into a hard shell and no longer requires a scavenged shell. This conversion comes at a price, however, as the crab must periodically molt its shell as it continues to grow. During these molting cycles the crab has to remain secluded until a hard shell grows back, or risk being an easy meal for another animal.

Shell or no shell, their greatest predator is undoubtedly the human. Coconut crabs are considered a delicacy in the South Pacific and especially in Vanuatu. Because of the high demand from the restaurant trade and the fact that it takes about 4 to 8 years before a coconut crab can reproduce, their numbers are rapidly declining.

Vanuatu is taking efforts to preserve the coconut crab population. In 2004, a 3-year ban was instituted at one of the main collection points for the crab. Additional bans have been initiated. There have also been restrictions on harvesting the crabs if they are of a minimal size.

These two stamps are denominated in 60 VUV and 500 VUV, which is Vanuatu's currency unit. Together the two stamps would cost about US $6 with the conversion rates. Vanuatu Post issued the set as individual stamps and as part of a beautiful souvenir sheet featuring both stamps.

Vanuatu Post can be found at

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