Giant African Land Snails Invade Florida


By Dr. Patty Khuly

View photo


Giant African Land Snail

A fellow veterinarian recently remarked on the unique ecosystem we enjoy down here in South Florida. As a lifelong Northeasterner, she couldn't seem to fathom the biological extremes our weather makes possible, a list that has grown from alligator-eating snakes to include - get this - giant African land snails.

"Have you seen any of those giant snails?" she asked. "Jeez, it's like South Florida is some kind of biosphere gone awry!"

See Also: 10 Surprising Things About How Animals Sleep

Yes, I happen to have seen my share of these. Luckily, however, none have thus far seen fit to invade my personal space. In fact, I've only ever witnessed these things in the context of a "what'll-this-thing-do-to-my-dog?" vet visit.

Which is bad enough. Because in case you haven't yet heard tell of these strange invertebrates, let me describe: They look like fist-size slugs encased in a crunchy striped shell. Think escargot in the Land of the Lost, where everything is at least a thousand times bigger than you'd expect it to be. Not appetizing.

Florida Crops Threatened

Giant African land snails have even been compared in size to New York rats. Which is kind of apropos, seeing as they're about as welcome as any sewer-dwelling rodent. After all, National Geographic Magazine tells us these creatures have been known to eat 500 species of plants here in South Florida - a big deal for our native flora, our agricultural economy and, potentially, for the U.S. food supply, too.

Ahhh, the spoils of globalization. It's as if the entire world conspired to set loose its creepiest crawliest in our backyard. Like one big science experiment run amok:

"Hey, Mom, let's take it to Florida! It'll be happy down there with all those slithery things in the Everglades. Maybe it'll make friends with the pythons!"

See Also: How to Keep Your Lawn & Garden Green, Bug-Free and Pet Safe

One Way To Deal With Them

Yet it's no idle curiosity that brings these animals here from way over in Nigeria. Seems the snails are part of some religious ritual, a distinction that apparently earned them lots of covert plane tickets to Miami, among other choice destinations.

Indeed, these giant African land snails also managed to make landfall in Brazil, too. But that's where its globetrotting similarities to South Florida's end.

There, the Brazilians worried less about the impact on household pets and the environment and took to solving this invertebrate dilemma one meal at a time. Which makes me think we South Floridians should learn to hold our noses long enough to adopt their motto: "When all else fails, just call it a delicacy."

More Stories You'll Like on
* What Do Animals See in the Mirror?
* Want a Dog That Stays Puppylike for Life? Here Is a Breed You Will Like
* 5 Once- Popular Dog Breeds This Veterinarian Misses

View Comments (396)

Recommended for You

  • Harsh weather cripples fishing and tourism on Cameroon's coast

    By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame KRIBI, Cameroon (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - For over 15 years, Raoul Meno has been fishing the waters off the coastal town of Kribi in southern Cameroon. A bout of persistent heavy rains and surging tides this year has made fishing in Kribi increasingly difficult and…

  • Air Canada plane landed short, hit antennas in Halifax accident

    By Mark Blinch HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - An Air Canada plane that suffered heavy damage in an accident in the east coast city of Halifax on Sunday landed short of the runway and hit an antenna array, losing its landing gear, safety officials said. "They touched down 1,100 feet (335 meters)…

  • U.S. to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

    By Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici OSLO/WASHINGTON - The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December. The U.S.…

  • Modi's popularity in rural India punctured by discontent, suicides

    By Mayank Bhardwaj VAIDI, India (Reuters) - Over a dozen debt-laden farmers have committed suicide in recent weeks in India, and discontent in many rural areas against government policies is turning into anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi less than a year after he swept into office. …

  • Chile desert rains sign of climate change: chief weather scientist

    By Rosalba O'Brien SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The heavy rainfall that battered Chile's usually arid north this week happened because of climate change, a senior meteorologist said, as the region gradually returns to normal after rivers broke banks and villages were cut off. "For Chile, this particular…

  • Mexico unveils national strategy for Paris climate talks

    By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico on Friday said it will cap its greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, becoming one of the first countries to formally submit its national climate plan to the United Nations ahead of a climate summit in Paris in December. Mexico's Foreign and…

  • Fed must take account of global economy in U.S. outlook: Yellen

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve must take the global economy into account when judging the U.S. domestic outlook, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday, noting that a stronger dollar buoyed by weakness abroad may restrain U.S. exports Still, she added, U.S. consumer…

  • In reversal, crash-hit Lufthansa agrees to two-crew in cockpit rule

    Lufthansa said on Friday it would introduce new rules requiring two crew members in cockpits at all times, a swift reversal after its CEO said such a change was not needed despite the crash at its Germanwings subsidiary. The European Union said it would now advise all EU airlines to require two…

  • Sierra Leone capital 'eerily quiet' amid Ebola lockdown

    By Umaru Fofana FREETOWN (Reuters) - The capital of Sierra Leone was "eerily quiet" on Friday at the start of a three-day national lockdown aimed at accelerating the end of an Ebola epidemic in the worst affected country. Liberia has just one known case left and the three countries have set a…

  • Lufthansa to toughen up cockpit rules

    Lufthansa said it will introduce new rules requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times after one of the pilots at its Germanwings unit crashed a plane in the French Alps. Prosecutors believe Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked himself alone in the cockpit of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday and…

  • Poland to charge two Russian officials over Kaczynski plane crash

    Poland said on Friday it would bring charges against two Russian air traffic controllers over a 2010 plane crash which killed then Polish president Lech Kaczynski, a move likely to damage bilateral relations already strained by the Ukraine crisis. Prosecutor Ireneusz Szelag from the District…

  • Drought, warm weather bring 'smog day' memories in California

    By Sharon Bernstein KINGS COUNTY, Calif. (Reuters) - The brown haze over California's San Joaquin Valley breadbasket on some winter days has been an unwelcome reminder of the bad old days, when pollution hung so thickly that people were warned to stay inside. Years of tight environmental rules…

  • India turns to 'satellite god' for crop mapping

    By Ratnajyoti Dutta NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Sher Singh, a farmer from India's desert state of Rajasthan, prays to Varuna, the Hindu god of water, for a bountiful harvest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to promote a "per drop, more crop" approach to farming to make better use of scarce water,…

  • More than 15,000 buildings without power after Oklahoma tornadoes

    By Heide Brandes OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - About 15,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma and Arkansas were without power on Thursday after tornadoes touched down in the states a day earlier, leaving at least one person dead and scores of structures damaged. School were closed in parts of Oklahoma…

  • Seven die in Chile floods, military rescues stranded residents

    The death toll in Chile rose to seven after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 19 others were unaccounted for as the military rushed to rescue stranded villagers. Rivers have burst their banks, flooding towns, making roads impassable and forcing…

  • Fed's Lockhart says economy is in solid shape for rate tightening cycle

    Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank president Dennis Lockhart said on Thursday there was little risk of a misstep that would force the Fed to lower rates once it begins raising them. The economy is in solid shape to weather the upcoming turn to tightening monetary policy Lockhart, said at an investment…

  • Sky Deutschland CEO Sullivan quits for Fox: sources

    By Harro Ten Wolde and Georgina Prodhan FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Sky Deutschland Chief Executive Brian Sullivan is leaving the company and two sources familiar with the matter said he was headed for a senior post at Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox [NWSNA.UL]. The German pay-TV operator, which is…

  • One person killed, several injured as tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Arkansas

    At least three tornadoes struck Arkansas and Oklahoma on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring several others, officials said. A tornado moving through the Tulsa suburb of Sand Springs damaged as many as 60 buildings, a spokesman for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said. The Sand Springs…

  • Heavy rains in northern Chile leave two dead, 20 missing

    By Anthony Esposito and Rosalba O'Brien SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The heaviest rains to hit Chile's northern desert regions in 20 year have left at least two people dead and 24 missing as the torrential downpours caused mudslides and rivers to breach their banks, leaving thousands of residents…