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"As big as rats and dangerous to humans"

“As big as rats and dangerous to humans”

Native to Africa, they are up to 20 centimeters long and spread a parasite that damages crops and causes encephalitis. To confront them, local authorities had to quarantine an entire town

South Florida is struggling with an invasion of giant snails. According to the newspaper Usa Today, gastropods have spread uncontrollably in the US state and now threaten not only the stability of the local ecosystem but also the health of the citizens. One phenomenon has already been observed, but it has now reached proportions forcing authorities to quarantine an entire city.

Big as a mouse


In snails, only one gene determines shell orientation

Giant snails, native to Africa, are more than 20 centimeters long, the size of an average rat, have an average life span of nine years and reproduce very quickly: according to experts, each specimen has female and male reproductive organs. Males and therefore can produce 100 to 500 eggs per year even in the absence of natural mates. As if that wasn’t enough, they eat both plants and concrete and plastic, a very damaging aspect of cultivated land and infrastructure. What really makes them dangerous, however, is their ability to transmit to humans a deadly parasite that can infect the lung passages and lead to meningitis.

Two years of quarantine

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed on June 23 that the animal had settled in Port Richey, north of Tampa, and quarantined the entire area the next day. The quarantine will last two years, but unlike the lockdown imposed for the coronavirus, will only prohibit residents from moving plants, soil, yard waste, garbage, compost and construction materials outside the defined area.

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Hard to eradicate

The Florida Department of Agriculture has struggled with the giant snail problem for years. Gastropods first appeared in South Florida in the 1960s, and it took nearly 10 years and $1 million to eradicate them from the area. Since they don’t naturally have predators on site, they are really hard animals to destroy. To prevent the current emergency, authorities are using metaldehyde, a pesticide that is safe for plants and fruits.