The giant African land snail is a massive mollusk now infesting Miami-Dade County and threatening other parts of Florida.
They ooze in large bushes, gnaw through the stucco and plaster of residential homes and consume at least 500 different plants. The rare breeds of the species even carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans — although no cases of disease transmission have been documented yet.
Since September 2011, more than 116,000 of the snails have been found in 20 areas speckled throughout the county.
They come from east Africa and have been spread throughout the world from the pet trade, both as a food resource and through accidental introduction. They’re considered one of the most dangerous and damaging snails — and they’re being openly targeted.
At the state and federal level, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is on a mission to eradicate the snails before they spread through Florida, said Denise Feiber, the public information director of the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville.
“They’re a trifecta,” said Feiber, who’s traveled to Miami several times to help dispose of the snails. “They’re a risk to property, health and agricultural resources and landscapes.”
Since the hunt began more than a year ago, scientists have scoured targeted neighborhoods, initiated an outreach program to alert residents and started a help line.
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