(ORDO NEWS) — A city in Florida (USA) was placed under quarantine measures after giant African snails were discovered in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County.
The snails, which can grow up to 20 centimeters in length, cause damage to vegetation and agriculture. Given their huge appetite, they may even feed on carcass bones when other calcium-rich foods are scarce.
Snails also pose an immediate threat to human health, as they carry the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, or rat lungwort, which is said to cause meningitis in humans.
This species is especially difficult to get rid of, as this is not the first invasion that Florida is experiencing. Their first appearance in the state was in 1969, and six years later they were destroyed. At the time of the second discovery in 2011, they remained here for a whole decade.
“They can breed at four months of age, laying thousands of eggs over their many years of life span,” according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
“These snails can travel long distances by clinging to vehicles or in yard debris. Under adverse environmental conditions, the snail can burrow into the soil and remain inactive for up to a year.”
According to FDACS director of public information Christina Chitty, it is likely that the current situation has arisen because of the illegal pet trade.
Chitty told CNN that when illegally imported snails are released into the wild by their owners or lost, they can rapidly increase in numbers, surviving on more than 500 plant species or even eating house paint as a source of calcium for their tough shells.
The quarantine began on June 24 and continues in New Port Richey (Florida, USA) as the FDACS tries to eradicate these invasive creatures.
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