The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has put a section of Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, under quarantine this week, following the discovery of a giant African snail. Covering 3.5 square miles, the quarantine order prohibits the movement of the snail, as well as plants, plant parts, soil, and other “regulated articles”, without obtaining a compliance agreement from the plant division.
Giant African land snails are known to be very dangerous and one of the most destructive mollusk species, capable of reaching up to 8 inches long in adulthood and breeding thousands of eggs at a time. “This species can consume at least 500 different types of plants, as well as paint and stucco. It can also carry rat lungworm which can cause meningitis in humans,” said Nikki Fried, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, speaking about the snails.
The discovery of the giant African snail in Broward County was first reported earlier this month. In order to eradicate the pest, the plant division will be using metaldehyde-based molluscicide, a snail bait that is approved for residential use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The quarantine order will stay in effect until the infestation is declared to be eradicated.
Fried noted that the snails likely found their way to Florida when brought here as pets. The state has dealt with giant African land snail infestations a couple of times since the 1960s, but have only managed to eradicate them in two instances.
A similar quarantine was put in place in Pasco County, located 30 minutes north of Tampa, last summer after at least one giant African snail was spotted. During their treatment process, 1,000 of these snails were found and captured alive, Fried told Fox News.
Kelley Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, urged concerned Broward County residents to contact the agency for a compliance agreement for any commercial purposes, including the sale of regulated articles.
Eradicating the giant African snail can be a long process, requiring several years before the species is entirely eliminated. Ferguson encouraged citizens of the area to remain vigilant during this time and report any suspicious activity if they spot any giant African snails. She also noted that people should not pick up the snails, as they may carry parasites or additional danger to public health.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reiterates that the quarantine order remains in effect and will be revoked only when they declare that the giant African snail infestation in Broward County has been eradicated.