Florida eradicates giant snail that can eat houses and give humans meningitis

Giant African Land Snail – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Kurit Afshen

Despite its small size of 8-inches, it’s a master of disaster. This snail can give you meningitis all while eating the stucco off your house.

But it has officially been eliminated from Florida once again. 

On Wednesday, officials announced that the giant African land snail had been eradicated for a second time. 

“This truly is an exciting day for our state and for our country,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.

The African land snail existed primarily in Miami-Dade County, although hundreds of the presets were found in Broward County, specifically western Davie in 2014. 

The snail is considered a major threat on several levels considering it carries a parasite that eats 500 types of plants, causes meningitis in humans, and bites through stucco walls.

The snails could be brought here unintentionally or intentionally, Fried said. They have major implications regarding Florida’s exports and trade.

“Our trade partners do not want this pest,” Smith said, “so it was absolutely imperative that we come in and eradicate this thing so it didn’t impact our international trade.”

The first Giant African land snail was discovered near Douglas Park in Miami, the same site of Wednesday’s announcement. In 1966, a young child brought three to South Florida from Hawaii. Unbeknownst, his grandmother threw them out in their backyard, and the snails reproduced rapidly. Thousands were eradicated by 1975.

Smith said it is unclear how the most recent wave of snails got to Florida in 2011. A colony of the giant mollusks was discovered in 2014 near a house in western Davie.

The snail’s usual behavior includes coming out when it rains and remaining mostly active throughout the night. They routinely bury themselves in soil, making them extremely hard to find. Florida had to train two dogs to sniff out the creatures. The Sunshine State has collected more than 168,000 snails since 2011.

Smith said to consider a species eliminated or eradicated, it must be three years since the last live one was seen. The last sighting of a live giant African land snail was reported in 2017. 

“I’m happy to say there’s still only one place on earth where the Giant African land snail has been eradicated,” Smith said, “and now we’ve done it twice.”

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