You'd be crabby too if the first thing that comes to mind when people see you is a plate filled with opened carapaces and dismembered joints in steaming chilli paste and other spices. Never mind that you spend the bulk of your life in near anaerobic mud, lurking in holes beneath the prop roots of mangrove trees and venturing out in the dark to crack the opercula of benthic gastropods. With a carapace nearly 25 cm wide and chelae larger than my hands, a mud crab of this size is fairly rare locally, as the loss of mangrove swamps around the island have outpaced man's usual propensity to overharvest a free natural resource.
Found in warm littoral waters of much of the Indo-West Pacific, mud crabs in the genus Scylla were once thought to comprise a single species, S. serrata, with various populations that differed in size and colour. Unfortunately, some troublesome scientists decided not too long ago that one crab is not like another, and another, and another, and accordingly erected three new species that are distinguished from the original in their morphology, habitat preferences and reproductive phenology. The four species are not known to hybridise. So would-be farmers have to learn how to tell not only the sex but the species of crab they have, as the creatures refuse to go all the way with any but their own kind, regarding attempts at putting random pairs together any old how as an act of human bestiality.
From its purplish claws, this individual on Semakau is probably S. tranquebarica. An attempt to prod it out into the open with a stick resulted in a broken woody, so my duck thought it wiser not to poke it with other, softer, parts. In these replanted plots of Rhizopora, the crabs thrive beneath a canopy of young trees too dense for fishing canoes or any but the hardiest of mudlords. For now, they are safe from the blissful hunger that feeds in haste and forgets how these waters once trembled with life and sparked the songs of long lost families and friends. Perhaps it's far easier to reckon that gains for one generation can outweigh what was lost for good. After all, one can simply turn to Ceylonese imports to make up for local legends and atone for earthy appetites with deeds of deadly kindness, as if a meagre sacrifice of thoughtless mercy could atone for years of purposeful destruction.