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Saturday 15 August, 2020

Giant African Snail spreads to Northeast Trinidad

Photo via the Arima Borough Corporation/Facebook.

Photo via the Arima Borough Corporation/Facebook.

The Giant African Snail (GAS), once limited to northwest Trinidad, appears to have spread as far as Arima, posing a danger to crops and humans. 

The Arima Borough Corporation said in a social media post last Friday that the invasive pest, which carries a nematode which can lead to meningitis in humans, has infiltrated the Arima area. 

"It's no joking matter with the Giant African Snail. It's here in our Borough. Please be mindful and keep posted for tips on how to treat with it. The Giant African Snail can cause Meningitis and eats over 500 species of plants. Take a look at one that was found today!"

The Borough said the snail was found in Christina Gardens in Arima, while another woman said the snails had been seen in Valencia. 

According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Giant African Snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because it consumes at least 500 types of plants and can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco structures.

This snail can also carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. GAS reproduces quickly, producing about 1,200 eggs in a single year.

GAS feeds on more than 500 types of plants, including peanuts, beans, peas, cucumbers and melons.

If fruits and vegetables are not available, the snails will eat a wide variety of ornamental plants, tree bark and even paint and stucco on houses.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries said in a statement last Friday that it held an awareness session on how to spot and remove these dangerous pests. 

The Ministry said the session, which took place at the Ministry's corporate headquarters on January 10, 2020, showed staff how to treat with and destroy these creatures. 

The session was facilitated by Acting Entomologists Roshni Ramsingh and Rishi Mohansingh along with Agricultural Officer I, Nazia Alishan.

The Ministry said staff were able to spot the differences between GAS and local snails via specimen exhibits and to learn how to collect, destroy and dispose of the invasive animals. 

How to spot/collect/destroy the Giant African Snail

According to the USDA, here are several tips on collecting and destroying GAS:

  • Be cautious around these snails. They may carry organisms that can cause diseases in humans. These organisms can be transferred by ingesting improperly cooked snail meat or by handling live snails and allowing their mucus to contact human mucous membranes such as those in the eyes, nose and mouth.

  • If you handle snails or slugs, wear gloves and wash your hands. Always remember to thoroughly wash fresh produce. When travelling in areas where the parasite is common, avoid eating uncooked vegetables.

  • If you have water tanks please ensure they are tightly sealed to prevent snails from falling inside. 

  • Allow authorized agricultural workers access to the property to survey for the snail.

  • Cooperate with all quarantine restrictions or rules that might be imposed.

  • When destroying GAS, use one of three methods: drowning (either in bleach - 2 cups bleach to 1 gallon of water - or in salt solution - 2 cups salt to 1 gallon of water); baiting (Metaldehyde or Iron Phosphate) and spraying (Thiodicarb).

  • Relative to the pest's disposal, burning (in a barrel or pit), placing in a garbage bag or burying (at least 2 feet deep), were among the recommended options.

To report sightings, and for additional information, call the Ministry’s Hotline at 646-6284 or email snailreport@gmail.com. 

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