The USDA is on the hunt for a giant land snail. This massive snail, the Giant African Land Snail, is responsible for damaging crops and housing. The snail eats more than 500 different crop species, including citrus. When food is scarce, it consumes houses and buildings. ABC News 9, WAOW, reported on Sept. 1, 2014, that more than 1,000 African Giant Land Snails were seized in Georgia. The snail is sometimes kept as an illegal pet in the United States.
The Giant African Land Snail, Lissachatina fulica, is native to east Africa. When full grown, it is the size of an adult’s fist. The snail prefers tropical environments, which is why it is such a threat to states like Florida and Hawaii. However, it can live in northern climates too. The Giant Land Snail is capable of surviving most winters throughout the United States.
Like most snails, Lissachatina fulica, has both male and female reproductive organs. Once it mates, it can produce up to 1,200 offspring at a time. The snail has no predators in the U.S.
Back in the 1960s, the first invasion of Giant African Land Snails occurred in Florida. It took authorities 10 years and millions of dollars to eradicate the pest. In 2011, the snails mysteriously reappeared in Miami. Their numbers have been on the rise since then.
The current outbreak was traced to a single person in Georgia. Social media led authorities to a person in New York who admitted to possessing a couple of hundred snails. This person said he purchased them from a place in Georgia. In a recent raid, 1,000 live snails were seized. Snails were also seized in several northern states. Due to an ongoing investigation, names have not been released.
In Europe, the snail is eaten as a delicacy. There are few restrictions on the sale of the Giant African Land Snail in Britain and other European countries. However, it is illegal to own, buy, sell, or import the snail in any form, including frozen, into the United States.
The dangers of the Giant African Land Snail are many. The USDA says it is a major threat to row crops and citrus farmers. Lissachatina fulica can cause structural damage to buildings and it is a carrier of meningitis. Anyone who sees what appears to be a Giant African Land Snail should contact the USDA.