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Giant African Land Snails: Pests, Not Pets

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health, Department of

May 27, 2004

The Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Community Health are warning schools, pet shops, and the public around the state that illegal giant African land snails could pose a public health risk and are major agricultural and environmental pests.

Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, said the giant African land snail could pose a public health threat if infected with a parasite (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that can cause meningitis in humans.

“While we have no evidence that any of these snails could be infected and the risk is relatively low, we are advising schools, pet stores and residents to contact the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) immediately if they are in possession of this snail,” Olszewski said. “People who handle snails of uncertain origin should always wear gloves and thoroughly wash their hands.”

These snails, which can be larger than a person’s hand, reproduce rapidly and are considered by scientists as one of the most damaging land snails in the world. Recent information suggests that these snails are being sold in pet stores, traded by exotic animal dealers, or used for educational purposes in schools around the county.

“If you have a giant African land snail, do not release it into the environment under any circumstance or give it to someone else,” said Dan Wyant, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Not only is there a potential health risk, but these snails present a significant threat to our agricultural crops and natural resources.”

Wyant noted that individuals with these snails should contact the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office located in southeast Michigan at 734/942-9005 or by leaving appropriate contact back information at the USDA’s giant African snail toll-free hotline at 888/703-4457.

USDA or MDA personnel will arrange to collect the snails as soon as possible free of charge and without penalty. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov, the USDA at www.aphis.usda.gov or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.