Gainesville symposium focuses on giant African land snail

April 12, 2013

SealColorExperts and program administrators gathered April 9-10 at DPI headquarters in Gainesville for the Giant African Land Snail Science Symposium, which had as its goal acquiring the latest scientific information on GALS to better ensure a successful, efficient and timely eradication program. The symposium attracted the attention of local reporters, who helped educate the north-central Florida audience about the snail and the eradication efforts going on in Miami-Dade.

More than 116,000 of the snails have been captured since they were discovered in Miami-Dade County on September 8, 2011, and  public vigilance is responsible for the bulk of the captures.


Inspectors continue to collect giant African land snails, mostly from residential areas of Miami-Dade County. Captured snails are counted, evaluated and destroyed.

The majority of the captures in the 20 core areas resulted from calls made by the public to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (FDACS/DPI) Helpline, 1-888-397-1517. Core areas consist of properties within a one-half mile radius of a positive giant African land snail find.

Inspectors continue to respond to reports from the public, collecting the snails and applying bait in areas where snails are detected.

The gravity of the current situation is made clear by comparing that number with the total of 17,000 collected over nine years during a previous eradication program that began in 1966, when a boy smuggled three of the snails into Miami as pets and his grandmother released them into her garden. That program cost $1 million in 1960s dollars and is the only known successful giant African land snail eradication program to date.


These are specimens representing the various life stages of the giant African land snail, from egg to adult. The snail can grow to a length of eight inches.

The giant African land snail (Achatina fulica) is one of the largest and most damaging snails in the world because it consumes at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and, in rare cases, can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. No such cases have yet been identified in the US, although DPI scientists have detected the worm in some specimens captured in Miami-Dade.  The snails grow up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter and can live as long as nine years. Adults lay about 1,200 eggs in a typical year.

Originally from East Africa, the snail has established itself throughout the Indo-Pacific Basin, including the Hawaiian Islands. It has also been introduced into the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe with recent detections in Saint Lucia and Barbados. Giant African land snails are illegal to import into the United States without a permit and currently no permits have been issued.

Anyone who believes they may have seen a giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call the Division of Plant Industry’s toll-free Helpline at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected.

For more information, B-roll, and photos, visit: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi/gals/index.html



Giant African Land Snail by the Numbers

As of March 30, 2013

Date the giant African land snail was discovered in Miami: September 8, 2011

Number of agricultural crops known to be consumed by the snail: 500

Maximum size attained by the species: 8” x 4.5”

Maximum years in life span of individuals: Nine

Number of eggs an adult can lay in one year: 1,200

Snails found since September 11, 2011: 116,000+

Number of core areas where the snail has been found in Miami-Dade County: 20

Number of properties on which snails have been found: 518

Properties within ½ mile arc of positive properties: 45,000

Number of years it took to eradicate the snail after it was found in Florida in 1966: Nine +

Total number of snails collected in the 1966-1975 eradication: 17,000

Cost of that eradication (in 1960s dollars): $1 million

Number of successful GALS eradication programs on record: One

Number of the Division of Plant Industry toll-free helpline: 1-888-397-1517


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