Once again another invasive species… the Giant African snail…

This post is also available in: Dutch.

We are not even recovered yet from the fact that the Agave weevil was found on Curacao as well, let alone that something has been done about it, but are confronted by yet another addition to the list of invasive species. The following text has been written by Mr. Gerard van Buurt, and it speaks for itself.

A giant, destructive snail. And it will get quite a lot bigger than this specimen!

In recent years, Curacao is plagued by an increase in harmful invasive species. Most of those accidentally ended up on the Island by means of imported
plants. After recent encounters of insects (eg the red palm weevil and the agave weevil), last week the Giant African snail (Achatina fulica) was found in a garden in the old Jan Thiel area. This very harmful invasive species was discovered by Mr. Manuel Boot of the gardening company Vitis NV. He will attempt to eradicate all snails in the area where he encountered them. At the moment it is unclear since when this species is present on Curacao and if it already spread out outside the Jan Thiel area.

This case illustrates once again that the monitoring of imported plants is seriously lacking. Harmful species can easily enter the Island, and might
subsequently cause severe damage to the local natural environment. In this case human health might also be at risk, however. The species of snail that has been encountered at Jan Thiel is often the host of parasitic Metastrongylus worms. These can cause dangerous eosinophilic meningoencephalitis
(acute meningitis) in people that come into contact with the snail. In addition, these snails are also the carriers of various harmful bacteria such as Aeromonas hydrophila and Salmonella. In many countries these snails are eaten. If not completely cooked through in, for example, a pressure cooker, though, they might transmit the disease mentioned above. It is therefore strongly discouraged to eat these animals, or even to touch them.
If someone decides to handle them anyway, it is recommended to wash the hands with soap right away, or to use gloves for better protection. The recently found snail is examined at Carmabi to determine whether the worms that can cause meningitis are present in this animal.

People who encounter such a giant snail in their garden are recommended to kill it with a commercial snail control product (molluscicides) like Mesurol. Slug pellets can also be used (e.g. from the brand Slugged) but one should be careful with this because these are also toxic to dogs, other animals and children. These should be placed somewhere inaccesible to children and pets.

The difference between harmless local species of land snails, such as the kokolishi di kabritu, and the recently found giant snail is the size of the animal. Snails with a shell larger than 4 cm are almost certainly the latter. Furthermore, the local tree snail Drymaeus elongatus hardly occurs in landscaped gardens but only in areas with natural vegetation.

Curacao is not the first island affected by this invasive species. The giant African snail is able to reproduce rapidly and is very voracious. This is mainly the reason that it caused terrible damage to agricultural crops, natural ecosystems, local economies and public health in the areas in which it was inadvertently introduced (like the USA). In the United States it is currently listed as one of the most harmful invasive species and it appears in the top 100 of most harmful invasive species ever.

Leon Pors

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