Giant snails are denuding the state of vegetation, sickening and threatening the lives of its people and animals – even causing some people to leave the region. Thanks to an on-going giant African land snail eradication program, Florida is not the state in question. But the invasion of giant African land snails has Kerata and some other states in India reeling. In Kerata alone, there are now 59 different pockets of snail populations, according to this report.
Kerata residents describe thousands of the slimy mollusks invading homes and gardens, destroying plants and trees. People say they cannot walk at night without crushing snails under their feet. They say the snails leave a mucus trail that causes nausea and, when bodily contact is made with snails, itching. People find them on porches, kitchens, bathrooms, roads and water pipes. The snails are destroying farmers’ crops and plant nurseries.
Experts trace the infestation to the Willinlgdon Island seaport, probably transported on timber imported from Burma. Once introduced, the snails thrive in Kerala’s warm climate.
The giant African land snail is a slimy, voracious agricultural and urban plant pest. It feeds on more than 500 plants and extracts calcium from concrete on the sides of houses. It can grow up to eight inches in length and can live for nine years. Adults typically lay up to 1,200 eggs annually, so populations can quickly grow to the tens of thousands. The snails also pose a health threat: they can carry a parasite that, if ingested, can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.
The snail became recognized as widespread in Kerata in 2011, the same year the invasive mollusk was discovered in Miami, Fla. In contrast to the infestation in India, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the United States Department of Agriculture mounted an intensive eradication campaign that has confined the snail to 24 core areas of Miami-Dade County. Full-time teams of inspectors continue to seek out and collect the snails and apply bait in infested areas. They have captured more than 137,000 of the voracious snails and, more frequently now, the snails that are found are dead, the result of a more effective bait that the EPA permitted for use in 2012.
The Miami-Dade community continues to support the eradication efforts. In fact, reports by the public to the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517, have been responsible for 90 percent of the initial finds.
In South Florida, fast action and a long-term commitment by state and federal agencies, coupled with cooperation from the public, continue to protect homes, gardens, landscapes and agricultural crops from the invasive snail. The sad plight of Kerata’s residents illustrates the wisdom of such programs.