Massive rat-sized snails invade America!
Giant African Land Snails are spreading in Florida.
Florida is now under assault from a new invasive species, the giant African land snail, which can grow as large as an adult rat, about 10 inches. The hardy snails eat everything in their path, and could bring mass destruction to natural habitats, cash crops, and homes.
The snails have been flourishing in the tropical Caribbean for years, already having overrun several islands. They are popular pets because of their size and "friendly" appearance however they are tough and resilient and above all, destructive.
Their shells have been known to puncture car tires. Biologists fear that when the snails come out of hibernation over the next several weeks, motorists will hardly be able to drive because of the infestation.
A single snail can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year. Although their normal diet consists of anything green, they have also been known to eat stucco on the walls of houses.
The snails are a recent import, dating back only a few years, possibly as recently as 2010. The snails are native to East Africa where they are sometimes eaten. However, they are unfit for human consumption because they can carry a parasite known to cause illness, including a form of meningitis, in humans.
There are two stories regarding how they arrived, one says a boy brought home three of the creatures from a trip to Hawaii and released into a garden as pets, another says they were imported for use in voodoo rituals. The latter case is well documented. Both may be true.
No matter how the snails arrived, they will create massive environmental and financial problems as their population grows. For now, Florida officials are hoping to control their spread with poison, however the use of toxins to control pests also brings a myriad of risks.
It is most likely that Floridians will simply have to contend with the creature while the rest of the country is left to hope they don't spread too far.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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