Two Critically Endangered crab species, endemic to Bali’s Giri Putri cave, have found themselves in the limelight following a visit by Fauna and Flora International’s (FFI) President, HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands.
Regarded as a spiritual site, the Giri Putri cave attracts many thousands of Balinese Hindu worshippers each year. But alongside their many visitors, the cave is also home to a variety of wildlife that is suffering as a result of human activities designed to accommodate the visitors, including two Critically Endangered crabs found nowhere else on earth: Karstama emdia and Karstama balicum.
According to SOS grantee Dr. Tony Whitten, Asia-Pacific Regional Director at FFI, the royal visit was an opportunity to mark the launch of a cave management plan detailing how the cave’s wildlife can thrive alongside the people who visit the cave’s temples.
Since discovering the two species of crabs in 1993, Dr. Whitten says the cave has changed enormously with concrete walkways and benches added as well as a ventilation system and permanent lighting. Natural rock pools have also been filled in with rubble. On the surrounding hillside, deforestation means that less water is trickling through into the cave, and poor waste management is polluting other water sources feeding it.
All of these changes are putting pressure on Giri Putri’s wildlife – particularly the two endemic crab species, which need damp conditions to survive and appear to have suffered declines as a result of the changes to their habitat.
Moreover, the visit coincided with the formal announcement of a new cave management plan, put together by scientists in cooperation with the local temple committee, which aims to address these threats while also allowing pilgrims to continue to worship there.
The plan forms part of a project, supported by SOS – Save Our Species to raise awareness of the plight of Giri Putri’s crabs and to turn their fortunes around.
Proposed measures include fencing off water pools rather than filling them in, improving waste management, switching to motion-activated LED lighting, and using exhaust fans to reduce cave temperature and carbon dioxide levels.
Encouragingly, Dr. Whitten notes, the temple committee now recognises that Giri Putri is not only a temple cave but also a sensitive biological site, and is already taking steps to manage the caves more sustainably, all of which will be supported by the formal management plan.
Meanwhile, visitors to Giri Putri will also be able to learn more about the unique biodiversity of the caves - and how they can reduce their impacts - thanks to a new educational signboard that has been set up at the cave entrance.
Indeed HRH Princess Laurentien’s interest in the Giri Putri crabs exemplifies that it is not just charismatic species which should be saved from extinction. “Despite their absence of ‘cute and cuddly’ characteristics these biologically important cave crabs can act as a local flagship species” she noted.
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