According to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, more than 164,000 giant African land snails (GALS) have been eliminated in the state since the invasive snail was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services‘ detector dog teams and dedicated staff execute an aggressive program to routinely survey and destroy snails. Over the last five years, the department has detected and eliminated snails in 31 core areas located in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Due to the success of the program, the decommissioning team is recommending that 15, or nearly half, of the core areas be decommissioned in the coming year.
In addition to threatening more than 500 varieties of plants and agricultural commodities, GALS consume plaster and stucco to get the calcium needed to grow their shells. The snails also carry a parasite that can cause a type of meningitis in humans and animals.
Originally from East Africa, the GALS, Achatina fulica, is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length. Each snail can live as long as nine years. GALS are difficult to eliminate because they have no natural predators and reproduce rapidly, with adults laying up to 1,200 eggs per year.