The recent discovery of giant African land snails in Florida’s Pasco County led state officials to enact a quarantine order.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed that the county’s Master Gardener reported seeing the invasive mollusk in the city of Port Richey on June 23.
On June 29, the FDACS enacted a quarantine order for the area because the snails pose “a serious health risk” to people. They can carry the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.
Under the order, it is “unlawful to move the giant African land snail or a regulated article,” including plants, soil, yard waste, and compost, through or from the quarantine area, according to FDACS.
The department’s Division of Plant Industry also surveyed the area and began treatment for the “detrimental pest,” including the use of a snail bait pesticide, the FCACS said. The species — which can grow to be 8 inches long — are “the most damaging snails in the world and consumes at least 500 different types of plants.”
“These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments,” the FDACS added.
Christina Chitty, a public information director at the FDACS, told CNN the population of snails most likely originated from an illegal pet trade. It is currently illegal to own giant African snails as pets in the United States.
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The giant African land snail has been eradicated from Florida twice before. The mollusk was first spotted in 1969 and was subsequently eradicated in 1975. The species was eradicated again in 2021 after being detected in 2011 in Miami-Dade County, according to FDACS.
State officials said the last live snail found in Florida before the Pasco County sighting was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2017.