Invasive Snail, why is South Florida under quarantine?

African Giant Snail.

It is prohibited under the quarantine, which covers a region in Broward County that includes Pembroke Road and South University Drive in South

Florida, to remove a gigantic African land snail from the area or to move it in any other way, even within the territory.

Alligators and sharks may be synonymous with Florida, but this week, a slower, slimmer animal—a snail—is causing havoc on Sunshine State residents.

According to a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture, it is forbidden to move the snail or any plant, soil, garbage, compost, or building materials “within, through, or out of” the quarantine, which spans a region of about 3.5 square miles.

African Giant Snail
African Giant Snail

The large African land snail is “one of the most destructive snails in the world,” according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. It might contain harmful organisms including salmonella, bacteria, and rat lungworm, which can lead to meningitis. By consuming plaster and stucco, it can also harm a building’s structural integrity. The U.S. Geological Survey further warns that the snail may possibly be a threat to food security in Florida, a state with a sizable agriculture sector.

In fact, according to the USDA, once the snail was first found in the United States in South Florida in the 1960s, it took the government ten years and $1 million to completely eliminate it. Unfortunately, the species returned in 2011, when a new 10-year campaign was started, costing this time close to $23 million.

The enormous African land snail is not your normal garden snail and can be recognized by its brownish-striped shell. It is, um, enormous; it can reach a height of eight inches. It can devour up to 500 different plant species, including peanuts, beans, and melons, and consumes voraciously to maintain a mass of up to 2.2 pounds. It can survive for up to ten years and reproduces quickly—1,200 eggs are laid each year.

The snail has spread to other regions of Africa, Hawaii, the Pacific islands, the Caribbean, Brazil, and much of subtropical Asia despite being endemic to East Africa and not migrating.

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