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After Three Years, Giant African Land Snail Numbers Decline in Miami-Dade

September 9, 2014

Commissioner Adam Putnam says Florida is winning the war against the giant African land snail, but it won’t end until the mollusk is eradicated from the state.

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Division of Plant Industry

An unprecedented effort by state and national agricultural officials has resulted in a steady decline in the numbers of giant African land snails (GALS) in Miami-Dade County. The invasive snails were detected in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods in September 2011. Since then, teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have collected thousands of the mollusks – more than 141,000 to date.

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Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam collects giant African land snails in new core area where they were recently found.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam led a media tour marking the end of the third year of the eradication effort. He said teams had been finding fewer snails in the 26 established core areas, and because they are using a stronger molluskicide, most of the ones they did find were dead. But early this month, Core Number 27 was established when inspectors responded to a citizen’s call to the Helpline and found about 2,000 snails. It is important for the public to continue to watch for and report suspected snails. The teams’ work will not be over until the invasive snails are effectively eradicated from Florida.

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Commissioner Putnam and Dr. Mary Yong Cong show live GALS specimens to reporters during Miami media tour.

Giant African land snails can grow to be eight inches long and pose a serious threat to landscapes, crops, buildings and human and animal health. They are known to attack more than 500 plant species. They damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain the calcium they need to build their shells.

Scientists from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry have confirmed some of the captured snails carry the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals. Fortunately, no meningitis cases in Miami have been traced to the snail so far. The teams stress that no one should handle any snail or slug without gloves and everyone should remember to wash hands and fresh produce. (A good general rule is to avoid eating raw or undercooked snails, frogs or shrimp/prawns.)

The snails have not been found in any other county in Florida, but authorities urge the public to remain vigilant. Report all GALS suspects to the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517. Never move suspect GALS off-property, handle or consume them. Officials also warn against movement of plant materials from properties in core areas where the snail has been found.

Public support has been crucial. Officials attribute the success of the program to date to residents’ continued vigilance and cooperation with the inspectors. Homeowners continue to call the Helpline when they see suspected giant African land snails and have demonstrated further cooperation by allowing inspectors to access their properties for continued survey and control efforts.

The “Look for Them! Report Them!” campaign will continue to spread the word to Miami-Dade residents about the snail, using billboards, bus benches, radio, television and social media. Members of the team in Miami are also reaching out to the public through personal contact, presentations to community organizations and other events.

For more information about the program, go to http://www.freshfromflorida.com/GALS

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