Invasive and voracious, these giant snails from Africa pose a threat to human health and agricultural crops. A chemical eradication operation was initiated to end the invasion.

A growing population of giant African land snails has 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 city of New Port Richey to be quarantined on June 25.

The presence of this invasive gastropod has been confirmed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). “We are currently studying the species to determine the number of snails in Pasco CountyFDACS director of public information Christina Chitty told CNN. To treat the soil, a chemical eradication operation using a metaldehyde pesticide was immediately started. According to the FDACS, the operation will take three years to be fully effective.

A threat to crops

Native to East Africa, this snail breed is considered “One of the hundred most invasive species on the planet” , according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It poses a significant threat to natural areas and agricultural crops, as it feeds on at least 500 different types of plants. Once an adult, the giant snail can measure up to 20cm in length and 18cm in diameter. These snails can produce 2500 eggs per year, which makes eradicating their population difficult.

When it cannot find enough calcium in the soil for its shell, the animal attacks the stucco and paint of the houses, leaving behind a trail of excrement. For Christina Chitty, her presence is the result of the illegal animal trade. “Some exotic owners continue to invade the pests“She says. It is illegal in the United States to own giant land snails as pets.

Dangerous for human health

These gastropods are particularly dangerous for human health, because they are carriersa parasite called rat lungwormcapable of transmitting meningitis to humans, explains Christina Chitty CNN. For this reason the FDACS has decreed the quarantine and the prohibition to touch the animal without gloves. A notice, shot in a humorous tone, was published on the social networks by the institution to warn of the dangers.

This isn’t the first time Americans have faced this giant snail spreading problem. The FDACS lists two invasions in Florida. The first appearance of this parasite dates back to 1969, when a child brought three of these creatures from Hawaii to his grandmother. Once released into the garden, they reproduced and infested the entire area. The invasion was only controlled after ten years.

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

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