Florida is battling a growing infestation of giant snails. Originally from Africa, the species ‘Achatina fulica’ is one of the most destructive in the world.
The “Giant Snail” can grow up to 16cm long and weigh more than a kilogramme. They eat all kinds of material, including wall plaster, so are posing a big threat to houses in the region.
The authorities are also particularly worried because the snails can carry a human parasite called rat lungworm, that can cause potentially deadly meningitis in humans.
The local authorities have dedicated 50 people solely to hunting down the snails. Unfortunately, the species is difficult to differentiate from other snails when young, making it a time-consuming and costly mission.
Southern Florida provides a perfect environment for the development of the snails. There are virtually no predators in the region and the state has more than nine million hectares of cultivated land.
Florida is not the only affected region, the Great Lakes area is beginning to see a similar invasion.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services the giants snails, probably originally from Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, can lay around one hundred eggs per month and live up to 9 years. More than 120,000 have been caught in the Miami-Dade County since 2011, when a local resident first discovered one.
This is not the first time that Florida has battled the giants. In the 1960s three were brought back by a boy returning from a holiday in Hawaii, the three later turned into 17,000 and it took 10 years and millions of dollars to eradicate them