Dangerous giant snail invasion causes part of Florida to be quarantined

Scientist Mary Yong Kong holds one of the giant African snails she keeps in her lab in Miami, Florida, July 17, 2015. Keri Sheridan/AFP

Invasive and ferocious, these giant snails from Africa pose a threat to human health as well as to agricultural crops. The process of eliminating chemicals to end the invasion has begun.

An increasing number of giant African land snails have been discovered in Pasco County, north of Tampa, Florida (USA). The presence of these dangerous specimens, the first of which was found by a gardener on June 23, caused part of the town of New Port Richey to be quarantined on June 25.

The presence of these invasive gastropods has been confirmed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). “We are currently screening the species to determine the number of snails in Pasco CountyFDACS director of public information, Christina Chetty, told CNN. I immediately began the process of eliminating chemicals with the use of mineral pesticides to treat the soil. According to the FDACS, the process will take three years to become fully effective.

a threat to crops

Native to East Africa, this breed is considered to be a snail “One of the 100 most invasive species on the planet” , according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It poses a major threat to natural areas and agricultural crops, feeding on at least 500 different species of plants. Once a giant snail reaches adulthood, it can reach 20 cm in length and 18 cm in diameter. These snails can produce 2,500 eggs per year, which makes it difficult to eradicate their population.

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When it doesn’t find enough calcium in the soil for its shell, the animal attacks the plaster and paint of the homes, leaving behind a trail of droppings. For Christina Chetty, her existence is the result of illegal animal trafficking. “Some strange owners still invade pests‘, she says. In the United States, it is illegal to own giant land snails as pets.

Dangerous to human health

These gastropods are especially dangerous to human health, as they are carriersA parasite called the rat lungwormCapable of transmitting meningitis to humans, Christina Chetty explains CNN. This is why the FDACS issued a decision to quarantine and prohibit touching the animal without gloves. An alert, depicted in a humorous tone, was posted on social networks by the foundation to warn of the dangers.

This is not the first time Americans have faced the problem of giant snail infestation. The FDACS lists two invasions in Florida. The first appearance of this pest dates back to 1969, when a child brought three of these creatures from Hawaii to his grandmother. Once released into the garden, it multiplied and spread to the entire area. The invasion was stopped after only ten years.

More recently, in 2011, this species was spotted in Miami-Dade County. The state of Florida treated the soil through 2021, an operation that cost nearly $24 million.


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