Monday, April 23, 2012

Have you met the Giant African Land Snail, an Invasive Species of the first order?


              GAS (Giant African Snail, sometimes Giant African Land Snail) , (Lissachatina fulica, formerly Achatina fulica), is one of the most damaging snails in the world because it is known to consume at least 500 different plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental crops such as including beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, onions, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and melons The invasive non indigenous (not native) snail is also the carrier of the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis.  As a invasive species goes this one rises to the level of charismatic in its own special way. The giant African snail, L. fulica, according to the CABI fact sheet, easily becomes attached to any means of transport or machinery at any developmental stage; is able to go into a state of aestivation in cooler conditions; and  is readily transportable over distances.  

            Florida is by virtue of its hospitable climates is under attack from a wide range of invasive species of which GAS is but one. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services identified GAS in Miami-Dade County on Sep 15, 2011. Able to consume at least 500 different types of plants, the invasive snail "can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. Anyone who believes they may have seen a Giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call FDACS toll-free at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected." (USDA NAL Invasive Species Information Center)

            The invasive GAS is a federally regulated species: Snails in the genus Achatina (e.g., Achatina fulica, the Giant African Snail), are specifically prohibited for both interstate movement and importation into the U.S. This snail species group is not only strictly prohibited from entering the U.S. but is safeguarded when discovered. (USDA, APHIS - Regulated Organism and Soil Permits: Snails and Slugs)

            USDA APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) thinks that the giant African land snail, is originally from East Africa. The invasive snail has become established throughout the Indo-Pacific Basin, including the Hawaiian Islands according to APHIS. This mollusk has also been introduced to the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Recently, the snails were detected on Saint Lucia and Barbados. (USDA APHIS GAS Factsheet)

            USDA recently discovered and confiscated illegal invasive giant African land snails from commercial pet stores, schools and one private breeder in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. Additional finds of the snails have been discovered in Michigan. Amazingly, these snails are being used increasingly for science lessons in schools by teachers who are unaware of the risks associated with the snails and the illegality of possessing them.

The nematode (roundworm) Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm, is the most common cause of human eosinophilic meningitis.  In addition, Angiostrongylus (Parastrongylus) costaricensis is the causal agent of abdominal, or intestinal, angiostrongyliasis.   

                Giant African snails as mentioned above are carriers of the rat parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This parasite can be contracted by ingesting improperly cooked snail meat or by handling live snails and transferring snail mucus to the human mucus membranes such as those in the eyes, nose, and mouth. (Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project)

               If you have a Giant African Land Snail, PLEASE DO NOT RELEASE IT OUTSIDE OR GIVE IT AWAY.


DA-2012-12 April 13, 2012

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a Federal Order, effective immediately, which establishes regulated areas in Miami-Dade County in Florida for the giant African snail (GAS).

On September 9, 2011, APHIS confirmed the detection of GAS, Lissachatina fulica, in a residential area of Miami, Florida. Since the initial detection, APHIS has actively worked with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to conduct survey, regulatory, control, and outreach activities. While residential areas have been affected, to date, extensive surveys of nurseries and agricultural productions facilities within the infested areas have been negative for GAS.
The attached Federal Order outlines the safeguarding measures required for the interstate movement of regulated articles from the areas regulated for GAS. The requirements in the State’s interior quarantine for GAS are parallel to this Federal Order.

GAS is one of the most damaging snails in the world because it is known to consume at least 500 different plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental crops.

For further information, you may contact Robert Balaam, Eastern Regional Program Manager, at (305) 278- 4872, or Andrea Simao, National Program Manager, at (301) 851-2067.
/s/ Osama El-Lissy for
Rebecca A. Bech
Deputy Administrator
Plant Protection and Quarantine
Attachment (1)
-Federal Order

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