Australia Finds Giant African Snail, Kills It to Protect Agriculture

Image: Australia Finds Giant African Snail, Kills It to Protect Agriculture Example of Giant African Snail. (AP Images)

Wednesday, 13 Mar 2013 11:38 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A Giant African Land Snail, an invasive species the size of a baseball that can produce as many as 1,200 offspring annually, was recently discovered in Australia. Fearing the risk it poses to the country's agriculture, officials promptly killed it.

The giant snail, also known as Achatina fulica, is at least five times the size of an average snail and can be eight inches long and weigh as much as two pounds.

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The exotic snail is known for having a voracious appetite and harboring parasites, which can be devastating to agriculture, natural ecosystems, commerce, and human health. The species is has been named number two on the list of top 100 invasive species in the world, according to the Global Invasive Species Database.

Additionally, the snail can reportedly carry a strain of meningitis, a potentially fatal disease.

"Giant African snails are one of the world's largest and most damaging land snails," Paul Nixon, acting regional manager at Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said in a statement to the Brisbane Times on Monday. "Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and responsive system has so far kept these pests out of Australia and we want to keep it that way."

The pests, which can live up to 10 years and are most active at night, are illegal in most nations across the globe. However, they continue to be imported as exotic pets and some have been spotted in the wild, likely after owners release them.

After a thorough search of the area where the snail was found, officials did not find other snails or eggs, but inspections will continue over the next week, Nixon said.

In 2011, a Giant African Land Snail infestation was discovered in a residential area in Miami-Dade County.

As a result, Florida’s Department of Agriculture launched an aggressive campaign to extinguish the invasive species, disposing of more than 1,100 snails. Locals said the snails were not only devouring plants but also destroying stucco and plaster on their homes.

"They leave excrement all over the sides of houses. They’re very nasty," Denise Feiber, public information director of Florida’s Division of Plant Industry told ABC News. "These things are not the cute little snails that you see."

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