California Narrowly Avoids Snail Catastrophe, Florida Still at Risk.

Jul 31, 14 California Narrowly Avoids Snail Catastrophe, Florida Still at Risk.

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L.A. International Airport Inspectors Confiscate Dozens of Destructive Giant African Land Snails

Tallahassee, FL – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is warning Floridians in Miami and at other ports to be on the lookout for Giant African Land Snails, after it was reported Monday that inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport confiscated 67 of the invasive, destructive snails this month.

Giant African Land Snails – known as GALS for short – were detected in Florida in 2011. Scientists consider GALS to be one of the most destructive invasive species because they are known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. The snails cause structural damage to buildings; they consume plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed by the snails to grow their large shells. They also can carry a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.

“Giant African Land Snails are a triple threat. Not only do they destroy plants and damage buildings, they are a risk to public health,” Commissioner Putnam said. “We’re working hard to eradicate this invasive pest from South Florida, but it’s just as important to prevent any more from entering our borders. I appreciate the diligence demonstrated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in safeguarding our nation from threats such as these.”

Giant African Land Snails

According to Monday’s report by the Associated Press, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized 67 snails, which are prohibited in the United States. The snails arrived on a flight from Nigeria earlier this month. After identifying the snails, the U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated them.

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 9 years. GALS are difficult to eradicate because they have no natural predator and they reproduce exponentially, up to 1,200 more snails per year.

Giant African Land Snails

In the three years since the invasive pest was detected in Miami, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors have collected and destroyed more than 140,000 snails. Eradication efforts include dog detector teams, snail bait, regular survey and collection activities, development of experimental trap designs, modification of habitats to eliminate snail hiding places, requiring compliance agreements with lawn maintenance companies, inspections of solid waste facilities, and continued public outreach and education activities.

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. Thanks to the diligent efforts, the snails have not been found outside of Miami-Dade County.

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