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Florida Successfully Combating Invasive Giant African Snail Infestation

Aug 30, 2013 04:25 AM EDT

Florida is finally winning the battle to combat the Giant African Land Snail infestation, according to Adam H. Putnam Commissioner of Agriculture, Florida. The new eradication program, which included specially trained dogs to sniff out snails, has now killed more than 120,000 of these invasive pests.

These snails are native to Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. They were first discovered in the U.S. in 1966. They are one of the most damage-causing pests to crops and can eat almost 500 species of plants. Under optimal conditions the snails can produce a clutch of about 200 eggs with nearly 5-6 clutches a year.

In Florida, The Giant African Land snails or GALS were first seen in Miami-Dade in September 2011. The Florida Agricultural Department along with U.S. Department of Agriculture immediately began implementing aggressive plans to eradicate the snails from the state. They tried everything from specially-trained dogs to sniff out the snails, latest snail traps and even modifying habitat so the snails don't grow and reproduce.

"After two years of battling this invasive and destructive pest, we are confident that we will win this fight," Commissioner Putnam said in a news release. "We're now using a more effective bait and, with the help of canine detector teams, we're able to detect snails in areas that were previously difficult to access."

Government agencies collaborated with local residents to capture and eradicate the pests.

"Support from the local community has been critical to the success of the eradication program," Commissioner Putnam said. "Residents of Miami-Dade have been great partners in helping us find the snails and mitigate their impact."

The pests were brought to the United States by some kids that were visiting Hawaii. The snails dispersed around the country mostly due to educational institutions and pet stores procuring and keeping these snails on display. In addition to destroying plants, these snails also carry a parasitic rat lungworm that can harm humans.

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