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Miami Battling Invasion Of Giant African Snails

The invaders: Two Giant African Snails, in the hands of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staffers on Thursday (Sept. 15, 2011). i i

The invaders: Two Giant African Snails, in the hands of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staffers on Thursday (Sept. 15, 2011). Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The invaders: Two Giant African Snails, in the hands of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staffers on Thursday (Sept. 15, 2011).

The invaders: Two Giant African Snails, in the hands of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staffers on Thursday (Sept. 15, 2011).

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Giant African Snails, "one of the most damaging land snails in the world," have invaded a southwest Miami subdivision and are now the focus of "a time-consuming expensive counter-attack" by authorities, the Miami Herald reports.

The creatures "can grow up to 10 inches long and four inches wide ... eat at least 500 different types of plants, lay about 1,200 eggs a year, and can carry a strain of non-fatal meningitis," the Herald writes. About 1,000 have been found in just the past week or so.

The first few may have been smuggled into the country by a man who "practiced the traditional African religion Ifa Orisha, and authorities said he persuaded his followers to drink the snails' juices as part of a healing ritual," says the newspaper. "Several practitioners became violently ill."

According to the Herald: "In 1966, a boy visiting Hawaii brought back three to Miami and his grandmother released them into her garden. Soon, there were at least 18,000 slithering about. It took authorities a decade and $1 million to remove those snails."

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services advises that:

"Anyone who believes they may have seen a Giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services toll-free at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected.

"To preserve the snail sample, Floridians should use gloves to put the snail in a zip lock bag, seal it and place it in a bucket or plastic container. They are advised not to release or give these samples away."

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