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Giant African land snail triggers scare in Florida

Representational image. The sighting of the giant African land snail, an invasive species, in Florida has led the authorities to quarantine the area (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

It is a small and unremarkable creature yet the world is scared of it. So much so that on being spotted in Broward County in USA’s Florida State this week, parts of the area have been placed under quarantine as per a sciencealert.com report.

So menacing is its presence in the US that it is illegal to import or possess the giant African land snail in the country.

Native of East Africa the adults of this species can grow up to 8 inches and capable of laying eggs numbering thousands in one go and are considered a significant cause of pest issues globally and is one of the most frequently occurring invasive species.

Why dread them? They are a serious risk to people as they carry a parasite that causes meningitis, a devastating disease with a high case fatality rate, in which tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. Interestingly, these creatures have pointed edges that are so sharp that they can puncture car tyres.

It can thrive by eating paint, stucco (fine plaster) and plaster while posing a grave threat to vegetation. Keeping in view of its traits, Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said, these snails “could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments.”

To contain the creature, a portion of Broward County was placed under quarantine. It covers Fort Lauderdale and is about 9 square kilometres.

The imposition of quarantine means that it will be illegal “to move a giant African land snail or a regulated article, including, but not limited to, plants, plant parts, plants in soil, soil, yard waste, debris, compost or building materials, within, through or from the defined quarantine area without a compliance agreement.”

FDACS will use the snail bait — metaldehyde-based molluscicide – to get rid of the creature as its use at homes is approved.

This public menace was first spotted in 1969 in Miami and by 1973, more than 18,000 snails and their eggs were found and destroyed. Florida has twice declared eradication of these snails. Once in 1975 and then in 2021.

Also read: Florida invaded by deadly giant African snails that can cause meningitis