As Hoosier teachers wrap up another school year, the DNR is asking them to be careful of an unwanted visitor they may have in the classroom.
State Entomologist Dr. Robert Waltz believes there may be a number of teachers in Indiana who have giant African land snails in their classrooms this year.
"These snails have become popular as teaching aids," Waltz said. "However it is very important that teachers not dispose of them and never let them loose into the environment."
Anyone in possession of a giant African land snail should call the DNR, toll free, at 1-877-463-6367 or the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Gary Simon, state plant health director, in Lafayette at 765-446-0267. The DNR or USDA will make arrangements for someone to pick up the snails and properly dispose of them.
On May 7 the state announced a quarantine of the snails that said, in part, no person in Indiana may "possess, offer for sale, sell, give away, barter, exchange, or otherwise distribute or release a giant African land snail, in any life stage." A federal quarantine has been in place for a number of years.
Waltz, said the giant African land snail is considered to be the most threatening to the environment of any land snail in the world. "This creature is known to eat hundreds of different types of plants including some grown as crops in Indiana," Waltz said.
State health officials warn that individuals can become ill if they ingest snails that have not been completely cooked. The snails can carry the rat lung worm, which can cause individuals who eat raw or undercooked snails to develop meningitis and to suffer from permanent neurological damage.
Although rat lung worm has not been reported in Indiana, state health officials are concerned it could have been imported from tropical areas.
Scientists believe the giant African land snail is originally from East Africa. It is now commonly found throughout the Indo-Pacific Basin, including the Hawaiian islands.
According to the USDA, in 1966, a Miami, Fla. boy smuggled three giant African snails into south Florida upon returning from a trip to Hawaii. His grandmother eventually released the snails into her garden. Seven years later, more than 18,000 snails had been found along with scores of eggs. The Florida’s eradication program took 10 years at a cost of $1 million. (www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ep/gasalert.pdf)
For additional information about the giant African land snail, go to the USDA Web site at: www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ep/gas.html