Officials Tour Areas Crawling with Giant Snails

Since Sept. 8, 10,000 Giant African land snails have been collected, and officials are investigating how the species got to Miami-Dade County

By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel
|  Friday, Sep 30, 2011  |  Updated 4:23 PM EDT
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Authorities are hunting exotic snails that can be human killers.

Authorities are hunting exotic snails that can be human killers.

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In the latest effort to thwart a Coral Gables-area infestation of  Giant African land snails, federal and state agriculture officials toured affected areas Friday to survey what progress has been made. 

Since the Giant African land snail was first reported on Sept. 8, officials say they have collected more than 10,000 snails.
 
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also presented two sisters who had initially called about the snails with a certificate for the discovery. 

"The important thing right now is to collect the snails and for viewers to continue to call if they see a snail," said agriculture department spokesman Sterling Ivey. "We don't know how they got here. And we are working with the USDA to investigate how they got here. They are used in some forms of Santeria practices, so they could have been imported for religious practices."

The species is one of the largest snails in the world. They grow up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in width with a lifespan of around nine years. They consume about 500 different kinds of plants and they can cause damage to plaster and stucco. They also carry a parasitic worm that can lead to meningitis in humans.

The public was advised not to touch the snails and to contact officials to remove them. People should only pick them up with gloves and if they do come in contact with them, they should wash their hands, officials said.

The public is urged to call the toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 and to visit Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to learn more about these animals.

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