At the end of each tourist season, we see at least one person who has taken on far more hermit crabs than they can handle because a vendor, shop, or carnival told them they were going to put the crabs in the trash or turn them loose. While that individual’s heart is in the right place, we (as a group) are being taken advantage of and overloading our adoption program.
LHCOS aims to end the wild capture of hermit crabs for the pet trade. Our approach has always been to educate the public so they don’t buy a hermit crab in the first place. Decades of imploring stores to change or improve their practices has proven fruitless, there is a demand and stores want the money from meeting that demand. However, if no one is buying hermit crabs, and they sit in the shop for months, the store will not order more. Stores don’t stock products that don’t sell well and stores don’t restock products that are still on the shelves. These stores see animals as a product just like food or bowls. When they can’t move a product any longer they stop carrying it. It doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen. They don’t care HOW the hermit crab leaves the store, only that it moves off the shelf and now there is room for more.
Boardwalk shops, vendors, and carnivals are now engaging in what I see as destructive and predatory behavior. When they encounter someone who clearly cares about hermit crabs they use that to their advantage. They know you are a kindhearted person and they tell you they are going to put their unsold crabs in the trash or set them free, knowing full well you won’t stand by and let this animal that you so clearly love die. Now they’ve solved their problem this year, you have taken on the burden for them. Next year will they order fewer crabs? Nope. Why would they? You happily took the unwanted crabs off their hands this year and you or someone else will do the same next year. Problem solved―for them anyway. They are using our caring natures against us, causing us to bear the burden of dealing with dozens of hermit crabs. Hermit crabs that were taken from the wild but cannot be returned there. Hermit crabs they will have forgotten all about when next summer arrives and it is time to order more crabs for the season.
If you are told by a seller that they plan to release or dump hermit crabs you should calmly gather some information. Their name, business name, contact information etc. If you can get video footage or audio of them threatening to dispose of the hermit crabs that would be helpful. Don’t engage them or tip them off to your intentions, simply feign interest and collect the information you would need to get back in touch with them.
Now, contact your local Game Warden or Dept of Natural Resources and report this vendor.
Putting live animals in the trash is illegal.
Releasing non native animals is illegal.
Releasing an animal in a habitat in which it can’t survive is illegal in many places.
Encourage them to please go and speak to the person about the fate of these hermit crabs.Your local police department may not want to deal with this but the Dept of Game and Fish or Natural Resources WILL care. A visit from the local authorities or local news will be far more effective than you taking home 40 hermit crabs. Now they will be under scrutiny. Now they may think twice about ordering so many hermit crabs next year if they are forced to ethically deal with dozens of leftovers from this year.
No one person in our community has the ability to rescue large numbers of hermit crabs year after year. Our adoption program is not equipped to process that many crabs, nor will we devote our time and resources to aiding distributors and wholesalers of wild-caught hermit crabs. I cannot tell you what YOU should or should not do, but if you bring home dozens of hermit crabs, please do not do so with the impression that our adoption program will take on the burden of rehoming them all. Our program exists to help hermit crab owners, not wholesalers and distributors.
We must stand fast and be resolute in our convictions and our mission. We must stay focused on the larger mission.
I know it is SO HARD. SO VERY HARD to say no, I will not ‘rescue’ these crabs to help you. I will not feed the cycle of abuse.
LHCOS will not—and logistically cannot—serve as a dumping ground for masses of unwanted seasonal, carnival, or kiosk hermit crabs. That undermines all of our hard work spent educating the public and reducing sales. Why bother reducing sales of hermit crabs if we are just going to swoop in at the final hour and take all the crabs anyway? That just makes us an accessory to abuse and neglect and gives these irresponsible vendors an easy way out.