In southwest Miami, a small subdivision is being called “ground zero” of an invasion by a destructive, non-native species.
“It’s us against the snails,” Richard Gaskalla, head of plant industry for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
That’s the Giant African Land Snail, to be precise. They can grow to be 10 inches long. They leave a slimy trail of excrement wherever they go. They harbor the microscopic rat-lung worm, which can transmit meningitis to humans. And they will literally eat your house.
“They’ll attach to the side of the house and eat the stucco off the side of the house,” Gaskalla says. The snails are also attracted to garbage and pet food that’s been left out.
Giant African Land Snails are restricted in the US. Gaskalla says people often smuggle them into the country in their pockets, because they make popular novelty pets.