A plant-devouring snail the size of a baseball was captured and killed as a threat to Australian agriculture.
Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) reported Monday that the snail, identified as an Giant African Land Snail, was spotted moving across the cement of a Brisbane shipping container yard.
DAFF entomologists said the snail is an exotic pest with a ferocious appetite capable of destroying vegetable crops, fruit trees and Australia’s native eucalypt forests.
"Giant African Snails are one of the world's largest and most damaging land snails," said Paul Nixon, acting regional manager at the DAFF.
Giant African Snails are a significant biosecurity risk, being able to live through harsh conditions, lay 1,200 eggs a year and grow up to 12 inches long with a weight up to a kilogram. In areas where they have few natural enemies, such as Australia, the DFF said the snails could devour up to 500 different plants.
It also carries parasites that can infect humans with the disease meningitis, which can in some cases be fatal.
The last major Australian outbreak of the snail was in 1977, when 300 giant snails were exterminated in Queensland in an intensive eight-month campaign of community education, baiting and snail collection.
This snail was destroyed and officials inspected the container yard and found no evidence of additional snails, eggs or snail trails. They will continue surveillance into next week.
"Australia's strict biosecurity requirements and responsive system has so far kept these pests out of Australia, and we want to keep it that way," Nixon said.
DAFF works closely with other governments, agencies, industry and the community to reduce the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering and establishing in Australia and harming the Australian natural environment, our food security and economy.