Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced that more than 168,000 giant African land snails (GALS) have been eliminated in Florida since the invasive snail was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011. In addition to threatening more than 500 varieties of plants and agricultural commodities, GALS consume plaster and stucco to get the calcium needed to grow their shells. The snails also carry a parasite that can cause a type of meningitis in humans and animals.
“Giant African land snails not only threaten Florida’s $120 million agriculture industry, but they also endanger our residents and visitors. I am proud of the significant progress we’ve made to eliminate these invasive pests, and I encourage the public to report sightings,” said Commissioner Putnam.
Since launching an aggressive eradication program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 20 of the original 32 core areas under quarantine in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been decommissioned after meeting strict criteria. Seven more core areas are anticipated to be decommissioned this year.
A team of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and USDA scientists use the following criteria to decommission a core area:
- Surveillance and treatment efforts for 17 months with no detection of live GALS;
- An additional 19 months of surveillance with no detection of live GALS;
- A minimum of one detector dog survey; and
- A minimum of one night survey, when snails can be more active.
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 eliminate because they have no natural predators and reproduce rapidly, with adults laying up to 1,200 eggs per year.
Ninety-six percent of GALS initial finds have been identified due to calls to the helpline. To report a giant African land snail, call the department’s toll-free helpline at 1-888-397-1517. To preserve a snail sample, with gloved hands put the snail in a zip-top bag, seal it and put it in a bucket or plastic container. Do not touch the snails or release them in a different location.
For more information about FDACS, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.