Commissioner Putnam Announces Successes in Battle to Eradicate Giant African Land Snails from Florida
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More Than 128,000 Eliminated in Two Years; New Methods – Including Dog Detector Teams – Accelerating Efforts
Tallahassee, FL – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced successes in Florida’s battle to eradicate the Giant African Land Snail. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has recently implemented innovative techniques to detect and eliminate the invasive pest. In the two years since the Giant African Land Snail was discovered in Florida, the department’s eradication program has found and eliminated more than 128,000 snails.
After two years of battling this invasive and destructive pest, we are confident that we will win this fight,” Commissioner Putnam said. “We’re now using a more effective bait and, with the help of canine detector teams, we’re able to detect snails in areas that were previously difficult to access.”
The Giant African Land Snails, known as GALS, were detected in Miami-Dade in September 2011. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture immediately established an aggressive program to survey, collect and eliminate the snails. More than 128,000 snails have been collected on 576 properties in 21 core areas of Miami-Dade County. The GALS have not been found outside of Miami-Dade County.
Program officials continue to refine eradication techniques, including the newest addition of dog detector teams trained specifically to sniff out GALS. Other methods include application of a more effective bait, adjustments in survey schedules to optimize snail collection efforts, development of experimental trap designs, modification of habitats to eliminate snail hiding places, enhanced inspections of lawn maintenance companies and solid waste facilities, and continued public outreach and education activities.
“Support from the local community has been critical to the success of the eradication program,” Commissioner Putnam said. “Residents of Miami-Dade have been great partners in helping us find the snails and mitigate their impact.”
Through a multifaceted public awareness program, the department is urging Miami-Dade residents to be vigilant of GALS and report any sightings. Residents who believe they have found a snail should call the department’s toll-free helpline: 888-397-1517. About 85 percent of new finds of GALS were from property owners who called the helpline.
Though hundreds of snails continue to be collected each week, the numbers have started to drop off significantly from one year ago. According to federal guidelines, eradication can only be declared two years after the last snail is collected.
Scientists consider GALS to be one of the most damaging snails in the world because they are known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. The snails can also cause structural damage to buildings; they consume plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed by the snails to grow their large shells. In large numbers, GALS can cause extensive damage.
Public health concerns also surround this and other types of snails and slugs because they can carry a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.
Originally from East Africa, the Giant African Land Snail, 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 9 years. In a typical year, an adult can produce about 1,200 eggs.