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Miami-Dade Schools Incorporate Giant African Land Snail into Fourth Grade Curriculum

February 15, 2013

This week, staffers from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (FDACS-DPI) briefed about 150 Miami-Dade teachers, who serve as science leaders for their elementary schools, on the program aimed at eradicating the giant African land snail from Miami-Dade County. The science leaders will return to their schools and, if their principals approve, will promote the Junior Detective Program to their students.

Members of the team working to eradicate the giant African snail from Miami-Dade always handle the animals with gloves. Students participating in the Junior Detective Program are advised to report, but not handle, snails.

Members of the team working to eradicate the giant African snail from Miami-Dade always handle the animals with gloves. Students participating in the Junior Detective Program are advised to report, but not handle, snails.

Plans call for the science leaders to organize assemblies for all fourth grade classes, where students will learn about the invasive snail from members of the FDACS-DPI team. Students interested in becoming Junior Detectives will take a letter home to their parent or guardian seeking their permission to participate in the program. Students who receive permission from their parent or guardian will then receive a Junior Detective kit, which includes information on the snail, invasive species patrol badges and snail identification cards. Students will then be encouraged to partner with their parent or guardian to look for the snails in their yards and neighborhoods, and to report suspect snails to the DPI Helpline, 1 (800) 397-1517.

Students will be educated to Look for, but not to touch the snails. Scientists with DPI have confirmed the presence of the microscopic rat lungworm in a small number of snails captured in Miami-Dade. The worm can be transferred to humans through contact with the snails, and spread a form of meningitis. The snail is a slimy, voracious agricultural and urban plant pest. It feeds on more than 500 species of plants and extracts calcium from concrete on the sides of houses. It can grow up to eight inches in length and can live for nine years. Adults typically lay up to 1,200 eggs annually, so populations can quickly grow to the hundreds of thousands. Teams from FDACS-DPI have been working to eradicate the pest since it was discovered in August 2011, and have now collected more than 110,000 snails.

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