Friday, April 10, 2015

Giant Snails on the Run from Rescue Dogs

Despite being called "Giant" snails, they can be pretty hard to find.  This is where being able to sniff them out is very helpful.  The snails were discovered on the island Santa Cruz, one of the Galapagos islands, in 2010.  Previously, workers would traverse the island in the dark and rain to find the snails.  It was a very slow and laborious process. Now, two dogs rescued from shelters have been trained to detect the snails, which means that there may be hope to eradicate the snails from the island. If that becomes a reality, the trained dogs will continue in their work, but be reassigned to inspecting cargo and imports for incoming invasives, stopping the problem at the door rather than trying to root them out after they have a foothold.

You may ask, why are snails such a big deal?  Well, these aren't your typical garden snail.

giant East African snail (Achatina fulica) by Roberta Zimmerman, USDA APHIS,
These snails can grow up to eight inches long and four inches in diameter.  They can produce 100-400 eggs in a clutch and may have multiple clutches per year.  They have been found to consume at least 500 different species of plants and cause structural damage by eating plaster and stucco.  They are also a vector for a parasitic nematode known to cause meningitis in humans.  It has been found in Florida, discovered in Miami in 1961, and several countries around the world.

For more on the snail-sniffing dogs: Rescued dogs find new purpose hunting giant invasive snails in the Galapagos
Images: Achatina fulica
The BugwoodWiki: Achatina fulica