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Dr. Trevor Smith Reviewing Giant African Land Snail Eradication Strategies in Barbados

April 11, 2014

TSmithGALSBarabados

A flier announces an upcoming workshop to be hosted by Dr. Trevor Smith at the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown. Dr. Smith is in Barbados to educate farmers and agricultural officials on strategies to control and eradicate the giant African land snail.

Dr. Trevor Smith, chief of the Bureau of Methods Development and Biological Control at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (FDACS-DPI), will travel to Barbados next week to help educate farmers and agricultural officials about strategies to eradicate the giant African land snail and other invasive species. He will deliver a series of lectures and workshops highlighting programs and practices that are being used to eradicate the snails in Miami-Dade County.

Dr. Smith has broad experience with the snail eradication program, which he oversees in association with other personnel in the Division of Plant Industry and USDA. The snail, which is seen as a major invasive pest in Barbados, was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011 and agricultural officials immediately began efforts to detect and eradicate it.

Officials credit public cooperation for much of the advancement of the eradication program in Miami-Dade County.  Reports by the public to the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517, have been responsible for  90 percent of the initial finds. The agencies reach out to residents periodically through the use of billboards, radio and television ads urging them to look for the snail and report sightings. Members of the team also make public appearances before groups and at fairs and festivals. More than 139,000 snails have been found since the initial detection in Miami in 2011.

The species originated in East Africa and has established populations in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. It has been present in some West Indian islands since the 1980s.

The GALS was formally recognized in Barbados in 2002. Officials view it as a threat to public health, agriculture and tourism. Since 2002, GAS have spread from their point of origin in the west coast of Barbados to all 11 parishes. Scientists attribute their rapid increase in population to their high rate of reproduction and impressive adaptive measures including a wide range in diet and egg dispersal on cars, people, and soil.

The snail is a slimy, voracious agricultural and urban plant pest. It feeds on more than 500 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 tens of thousands. The snails also pose a health threat: They can carry a parasite that, if ingested, can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.

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