Can Florida’s Invasive Giant African Snail Species Be Eradicated?

First discovered in Miami, Florida in 2011, this giant African snail has been relatively quiet until recently. The first invasion was in the 1960s. Now, the southern suburbs neighboring Miami–including Broward County–must also carry the burden of these large, terrifying insects and their dysfunctional impacts on the region’s ecosystem.

A Bit About What Makes This Snail Scary

Giant African snails have been likened to tennis shoes in size, in their top form. That their population has thrived in south Florida leads us to quite the disaster for the ecological sanctity of its territories. The giant African snail is built to ingest and destroy at least 500 different types of plant species and that’s not all. It even takes bits of the stucco off houses.

Giant African Snail a Health Threat to Humans and Animals

Florida was forced to kickstart a $10 million program to eradicate these invasive snails. Especially after Florida State’s agricultural department expressed an explicit need for eradicating the giant African snail population, as they are a health hazard to humans and animals alike. They carry potential infections that can easily spread to both. When giant African snails consume infected rat species, they will begin to carry a parasitic worm that can cause a rare and deadly form of meningitis, contractible to humans.

Is it possible to eradicate the giant African snail population in Florida?

Eradication is a difficult achievement because of the these amazing gastropods (snails are part of the gastropod family) unique abilities. Not unlike other insects, though gigantic, giant African snails are able to slide up to tree tops, eluding chemicals on the ground meant to terminate them. The option to hibernate beneath the surface of the soil is also a natural defense mechanism and benefit of theirs, allowing them to survive Florida’s infamous hurricane seasons.

In the past four years since their first discovery in Miami, 158,000 plus of the giant African snail population have been terminated. This has cost Florida $10.8 million — about 10 times more than the 1960s’ initial invasion cost. By state definition, true “eradication” is achieved only if its been two years since the last of its species was found alive in the wild. The last sighting of this built-to-last sort was in April of this year.

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