Maltese Freshwater Crab (Qabru)

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Last Sunday I set out to try to see and hopefully photograph the highly endangered Maltese Freshwater Crab (Scientific: Potamon fluviatile lanfrancoi; Maltese: Il-Qabru, Granċ tal-Ilma Ħelu) here in Malta. It is en endemic species to the island and only exists in a handful of places on the island of Malta and in one place on the sister island of Gozo. To be honest I didnt’t have much faith I would find one, and even less get a decent shot of the animal. How wrong I was… A friend of mine had kindly sent me some detailed directions to one of the spots where one can find these crabs.

WOW! after 2-3 minutes I had spotted the first Maltese Freshwater Crab. I was rather surprised on how large it was. The first crab I saw was in its burrow and rather hard to photograph. It seemed comfortable and safe in its burrow. I snapped a few shots.

Maltese fresh water crab in its burrow (Qabru in Maltese)
The crabs live in holes between rocks or burrows that they dig into the clay, so when moving around you have to be very careful not to tread on any burrows of course. After some time I noticed a smaller and differently coloured crab further into the locality. It had its burrow between two rocks that was about 1 meter above the water surface. I am not sure if it was just a juvenile specimen or maybe a difference between females and males. Need to research that a bit further.
While continuing to look for the Maltese Freshwater Crabs in interesting places for photography (read: not deep into a 50cm long burrow) two Polish tourists came by and was wondering what I was doing. I explained to them the interesting facts about this crab and its endemism etc. Whilst sitting down on the footpath close to the spot, a large crab just walks pass us in the shallow water  between us. The crab is only  a meter or so away from me. To get an interesting shot I need to get down low and that means IN the water. I managed to snap 10-12 shots before the crab had passed us and disappeared into some thick reeds. I was soaking wet but luckily it was a sunny and warm day. As it often is here in Malta…
Maltese Freshwater Crab - low angle
The Polish tourists were very happy with my “guiding” and the sighting that most Maltese have never seen. I decided to stay a bit longer (Read: I called my wife and she gave me permission to stay another hour) And boy, am I thankful for that. I sit and watch a burrow with a crab hoping that it would come out when all of a sudden I notice a movement 2-3 metres away and when turning my head I see how this huge crab casually walks across the sand between the small stones and rocks.  Already wet, I carefully lay down and again try to get some low angle shots.
In my quest of getting a bit of a different shot I change to a wide angle lens and try to slowly get close to the crab, without disturbing it, and at the same time get some of its habitat in the frame. I managed to get a few good shots but after some time I noticed the crab’s patience had run out and he clearly showed me that it was time for me to leave. I backed off slowly and watched him make his way safely into a burrow. Euphoric with the unfolded events,  I packed up my things, removed some rubbish that someone less caring had left on the spot and walked back to my car.What a day! Some great shots and an incredible experience at a small but yet beautiful location that I hope to visit again soon. Hope you like the images as much as I enjoyed taking them!
Maltese fresh water crab (Qabru in Maltese)
Maltese fresh water crab (Qabru in Maltese)
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