More than 159,000 giant African land snails have been eliminated in Florida since the giant invasive mollusk was found in Florida four years ago.
In addition to consuming more than 500 varieties of plants, giant African land snails are capable of destroying structures by consuming plaster and stucco and have been known to carry a parasite that can cause serious diseases in humans such as meningitis.
“Giant African land snails threaten the crops, structures and residents of Florida, and we’ve gone to great lengths to find and eradicate them,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “We’ve eliminated more than 159,000 of these invasive pests, but only with the continued help of the residents of South Florida can we completely rid Florida of the giant African land snail.”
The eradication program has been very effective, shown by the fact that the number of snails collected weekly has dropped from several thousand at one point into the single digits. In addition, the mortality rate of discovered snails is close to 100 percent. Of the 29 core areas where the snail has been found, the department has not found a live snail in 21 of the core areas in the past year.
Two detector dog teams and dedicated staff routinely survey the core areas to detect and destroy snails. The department has also removed more than one million pounds of plant debris from the core areas in Miami-Dade County where the GALS typically live.
Program officials continue to refine eradication techniques, including researching alternative bait treatments, inspecting lawn maintenance companies and solid waste facilities, continuing public outreach and education activities, and developing experimental trap designs.
Originally from East Africa, the GALS, Achatina fulica, is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to 8 inches in length. Each snail can live as long as nine years. GALS are difficult to eradicate because they have no natural predator and they reproduce exponentially, up to 1,200 more snails per year.
Ninety-six percent of cases have been identified due to calls to the helpline. To report a giant African land snail, call the department’s toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517. To preserve a snail sample, with gloved hands put the snail in a zip-top bag, seal it, and put in a bucket or plastic container. Do not touch the snails or release them in a different location.