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The Harsh Truth Behind The Hermit Crab Pet Store Trade

This article will be a hard one to read, but we truly believe owners have a right to know the truth behind the Hermit Crab trade in Australia.

Please note - This blog comes with a trigger warning for information on animal abuse, and photos containing animal abuse.

Every single Hermit Crab that is owned in Australia (even the ones in your tank right now) were plucked from the wild, tortured and sent to pet stores all over Australia.

The only crabs in captivity within Australia who were not subjected to this kind of abuse, are those who have been captive bred. And currently there are only 3 successful breeders in Australia. Natalie Van Amstel, Sue Brown and myself (Tiffany Boer).

Wild Hermit Crabs within Australia live in naturally hot and humid environments such as Western Australia and Northern Queensland. These are where the wildlife trader Crazy Crabs sources the Hermit Crabs that are sent to pet stores in Australia.

Once these crabs are collected from the beach, they are placed into burlap sacks that contain hundreds to thousands of hermit crabs, all squished together.

They are then transported to a large warehouse where they are placed in huge tubs without food, water, substrate, heat or humidity.

This is when the process takes a really dark turn, Hermit Crabs collected from the wild are in natural shells, however, it is hard to promote them as fun child friendly pets and "crazy crabs" when they are in their natural shells. So, they sell them in fun, exciting and entertaining novelty painted shells.

However, this is not fun, entertaining or exciting at all. This is animal abuse. Each natural shelled crab is placed into a device that clamps down on their shell until it cracks open, the Hermit Crab is then forcefully removed from their shell and thrown naked into a giant tub, inside this giant tub there is only one thing... painted shells. Now the crab has two choices, pick a toxic painted shell or die.

Some will luckily not be subjected to this kind of torture, and will be left in their natural shells, where as others will have their very own natural shell painted, while they are still inside it.

And what if the crab does not keep their painted shell on and continually goes naked due to stress? There have been some instances when captors have actually glued Hermit Crabs into their shells. This is an automatic death sentence for this crab. He has absolutely no way to survive this procedure. Even if they survive to make it to the pet store, and then to your home, he is stuck in this shell for life and will eventually die. You should never try to pry a Hermit Crab from a painted shell, they will be torn in half.

During this process, hundreds of Hermit Crabs will die due to lack of food, water, heat, humidity, stress, torture and being to weak or afraid to take a painted shell. What does this mean to the company? Lost money.

Not a life that has been lost, not an animal that has been tortured, not a creature that felt pain or fear. Just another crab that can't be sold and a loss of income.

During the process, thousands of Hermit Crabs are stored in giant tubs, squished on top of eachother, the ones who have managed to pick a painted shell and survived will be boxed up and shipped all over Australia to local pet stores.

When they arrive at the pet store, their ordeal is far from over. Many pet stores have incorrect setups, or promote inappropriate Krabooz items. The crabs have already been through such a traumatic experience before they even reach the pet store, and now they are placed into a cold, low humidity environment with shallow water, placed onto tanbark, rocks, calcium sand or shallow sand and given just one option for food (Flakes or Krabooz Pellets)

Inside these tanks, they will not thrive, and many won't survive to make it out alive.

They are away from their natural environments, the heat and humidity they crave, the natural foods they scavenge, the marine salt that they desperately need and the deep substrate they need to safely moult.

Some will be purchased in time to survive, others will attempt to surface moult and fail, some will go naked due to stress and pass away. Ultimately each crab inside those pet store tanks is stressed beyond belief.

So, why do pet stores not do something about this? Because they just don't know.

They simply order their Hermit Crabs through their online system. They are not aware of where they came from or what they have been subjected too.

At the end of the day, the Hermit Crab is a cheap to purchase pet that they can make a big profit on, the Pet Store trade has one goal, money.

When you purchase your Hermit Crab, take it home to the setup the pet store sold you and it passes away, what usually happens? You return to the pet store and buy another crab. So what does the pet store do? Purchase more wild Hermit Crabs. The end result.. more money in the pet store pocket, more money in the Hermit Crab trades pocket.

This is the never ending vicious cycle of the Hermit Crab pet store trade.

Is it really a rescue?

When you purchase a Hermit Crab from a pet store, are you really rescuing them? Or are you supporting the vicious Hermit Crab trade.

It's both. We are rescuing them from the conditions they have been placed in, however, by doing so, we are also supporting the ways they capture and abuse these crabs. So what can we do about it?

Adopt! If you can adopt, you should.

Hermit Crab Owners all over Australia are continually surrendering their crabs due to unforeseen circumstances such as too much work, not enough time, lack of funds, or loss of interest. Search your local Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or Facebook groups for owners nearby who are rehoming their crabs. This is the best, and most efficient option. You are saving a crab, without further supporting the industry.

Captive Bred Babies

Although there currently are Captive Bred Hermit Crabs in Australia, there are none currently for sale. Captive Breeding is a time laboured task that is incredibly intricate work, hence why there are so few breeders. As we work hard every year to work out the science behind captive breeding, we always get one step closer to being able to sell captive bred babies to owners in Australia. Oneday we hope this will become a reality and there will be no need for wild caught Hermit Crabs.

Rescuing Hermit Crabs in Melbourne, Victoria.

There is currently only one rescue based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Known as Hermie Haven, owned by Beth McCully.

Beth takes on surrended Hermit Crabs, houses them and rehomes them to owners across Victoria. If you are nearby, please consider purchasing your crabs through her rescue.

I can't adopt, so what are my options?

We understand not everyone may be able to adopt, perhaps you live somewhere remote where there is no one rehoming Hermit Crabs. So you have no other option then to shop.

If you have options on places to purchase from, look for a pet store that has a decent setup. Some pet store employees have taken it upon themselves to become educated in the proper care of Hermit Crabs and have taken actions to rectify the pet store tank to make it more suitable.

These are the pet stores you want to purchase from. Chances are, the crabs will be more healthy and less stressed.

How you can play a positive part in the Hermit Crab pet store industry?

Education! Educate yourself, and educate others. Do you have friends or family who own Hermit Crabs or would like to own Hermit Crabs. Educate them first.

Perhaps your daycare or school has Hermit Crabs, it doesn't hurt to approach these places and have a discussion on ways they can improve their care.

It also never hurts to approach your local pet store and have a discussion about the setup of their tank.

Many people will hear or read about animal abuse, find it upsetting, but will look the other way and pretend it does not exist. Changes come through education and action. Let the change begin with you.

*Wild Hermit Crabs freshly captured from the beach and placed into sacks to head to the warehouse.

*Wild Hermit Crabs Bagged up at the warehouse.

*Hermit Crabs shell being crushed in a machine to remove the naked crab.

*Naked Hermit Crabs being thrown into a tub of painted shells.

*Painted shells available to purchase from Crazy Crabs

*Hundreds of Hermit Crabs squeezed into a glass tank with no lid, no heat, and about 1cm of substrate, all piled on top of eachother ready for sale.

*Inappropriate pet store setups

*Inappropriate pet store setups

*Inappropriate pet store setups

*Inappropriate pet store setups

Correct Tank Setups - belonging to owners around Australia.

*Tank belongs to Kim Maree

*Tank belongs to Harlow BS

*Tank belongs to Leah McIlwraith

*Tank belongs to Taryn Braybon

*Tank belongs to Corina Pixarina

*Tank belongs to Bek Jolliffe

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