• Outdoors Outdoors

Officials enact quarantine after spotting extremely dangerous invasive species — here's what makes it so 'damaging'

The species was one of the factors that drove Tahiti's Partula snail to extinction in the wild.

Giant land snail, African land snails

Photo Credit: iStock

In late June, Broward County, Florida, placed some communities under quarantine to address sightings of an invasive pest, CNN reports. According to a map provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), two zones in the Miramar area will need treatment to get rid of giant African land snails.

What's happening?

Giant African land snails are an invasive, destructive, and sometimes dangerous snail species that has, unfortunately, been introduced in many habitats worldwide. The species was one of the factors that drove Tahiti's Partula snail to extinction in the wild.

Now, these snails have been spotted in Broward County, so local officials are taking action to eliminate them, CNN reports. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced a quarantine zone in the southeast area of the county that makes it illegal to move snails, plants, compost, and yard waste into or out of the affected area.

Meanwhile, the department said in a news release that it would apply snail baits to two affected areas to kill the invasive animals. CNN assures readers that the type of pesticide being used, metaldehyde, is specific to mollusks and approved for residential use.

Why are African land snails worrisome?

CNN explains that the giant African land snail is surprisingly dangerous for such a small and slow-moving creature. According to the FDACS, the snail is "one of the most damaging snails in the world, consuming at least 500 different types of plants," 

While primarily known for damaging crops, it can also eat through plastic and stucco and has a shell sharp and strong enough to pop a tire if a car runs over it.

Worst, though, these snails also carry parasites that affect humans. Quoting both the Department of Agriculture and the CDC, CNN explains that "rat lungworm" causes dangerous swelling in the brain and spinal cord, a condition called meningitis.

What can local residents do to help?

The most important step Florida residents can take is to respect the quarantine zone and avoid transporting plants, vegetables, and garden waste — even if you think they're clean.

Also, be on the lookout for fist-sized brown snails. You can report sightings to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Try to get a picture of the snail if possible to help with identification, but don't touch it.

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