Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) February 05, 2009 -- The tropical island of Loh, in the far north of Vanuatu, voted the Happiest Country on Earth in 2006, has been thrown into crisis. Distressed parents and their live coconut crabs are left stranded, as the only airline carrier servicing the outer islands, refuse to transport the crabs.
Making several trips to the airstrip over the past month, to meet the once-a-week flight, the villagers have had their hopes dashed over and over. Each time they have been told there is no room available for the crabs to be air lifted to the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila.
Michael Rahurou told us "The villagers urgently need the crabs to be sold so they have the cash to pay their school fees. Every time the airline agent sends the villagers back home, some more of the very valuable crabs die and need to be replaced". The villagers have managed to get together enough money to pay for the freight, but the airline refuses to come to the aid of the local people.
A spokesman for Air Vanuatu said: "We cannot carry the live coconut crabs as they are not in a suitable container to be freighted. Coconut crabs have the ability to nip off a finger, so it is important they are securely tied and packaged".
When the coconut crabs are secured for sale, by the villagers, they are tightly tied up by coconut palm leaf strips. It would be virtually impossible for a coconut crab to free itself from these strappings. The crabs are then securely packaged into a traditional woven coconut leaf basket. The crabs are highly sought after by the tourist-serving restaurants in the capital. In some areas of Vanuatu, they are on the endangered list, but not in the Torres Islands area.
Several years ago the villagers raised the exact same complaints with Air Vanuatu. The domestic part of the airline is known to be the most profitable side to their entire operation. Surely Air Vanuatu is capable of supplying suitable containers for the villagers to transport their live coconut crabs? Containers which are available for less than $Au20 each and Air Vanuatu could recycle them. Airlines supply containers for other things like transporting food, or pets etc., on international trips. Why can this not be extended to the profitable domestic trade?
With no free education in Vanuatu and parents unable to raise the money to pay school fees, children go without education. These parents subsist on less than $1 per day.
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