Outbreak Of The Invasive Giant African Land Snail In Gyelpozhing Frustrates The Residents

The residents of Gyelpozhing seem to be frustrated about the appearance of the Giant African Land Snail (GALS), despite collecting repeatedly and dumping them. The outbreak of GALS, an exotic species native to Africa was reported in Gyelpozhing since 2010.

Many residents in Gyelpozhing are frustrated about the snails and some people have resorted to killing the snails but all in vain.

Among the frustrated lot is a 29-year-old housewife who said that every morning she collects about more than 20 to 30 snails, and dumps it in a nearby forest, but the very next day it reappears around her house. “I have been repeating the process for some time,” she said.

While a 47-year-old businessman said that it is dangerous for the children, as they just pick and eat it, especially toddlers. “One has to be careful,” he said.

The matter being reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, a campaign to control and contain the GALS population by manually picking and destroying was carried out. However, it has come to notice that some individuals collected the snails for shell to be used for decorative purposes both inside and outside Gyelpozhing.

The ministry said that this was of grave concern as it can have negative implications on environment, farming communities, and also on human health.

The snail feeds on a wide range of vegetation such as trees, vegetables, and crops and also calcareous substance such as concrete. In the presence of abundant vegetations it can multiply very fast. GALS is known to harbor nematode that causes meningitis, if it is not handled properly.

Its length can reach 20 cms or more, and in a year it lays around 1,000 to 1,200 eggs. Its life expectancy is up to 10 years.  GALS is listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world, and can adapt to wide-ranging climatic conditions from sub-tropic to temperate regions.

For the affected areas at Gyelpozhing and surrounding areas, dzongkhag administration in collaboration and with technical support from RDC Wengkhar, is already taking up various control measures.

In addition to efforts carried out by the dzongkhag, the MoAF will put in place following management mechanism such as, strict quarantine to be put in place with support of relevant rules and regulations and check points.

Biological pits will be dug at different sites where the snails will be dumped and destroyed, and mobile collection units shall be formed at relevant places for collection of snails.

Surveillance and vigilance team will be formed to monitor snail sightings which will include members from community. Along with it awareness shall also be created.

Communities and individuals are requested not to collect the snail or its shell and transport to other areas, and were asked to render support and co-operate with the campaign.

Some of the control recommendations were to spray common salt or dump the snail in slat solution, manage the surrounding weed using Glyphosate, and properly manage the garbage.

The sightings of GALS should be reported to the nearest RNR center or call toll-free hotline 140.

The snails were first spotted in and around Gyelpozhing Higher Secondary School in Mongar in 2008.

Empowering local communities for tiger conservation

With just about 3,200 tigers left in the world today, very soon the endangered species is likely to vanish from the face of the earth and live only in William Blake’s poem, like the dinosaurs that live only in stories today.
The future of wild tigers is bleak today as the surviving tigers are being poached across the forests of Asia to meet the demands of illegal tiger parts trade.

July 29 is globally marked as ‘Global Tiger Day’ and understanding the importance of the tiger in Bhutan, the Department of Forests & Park Services under the Ministry
of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) celebrated this year’s Global Tiger Day with the theme, “Empowering Local Communities for Tiger Conservation” at Norbuling Middle
Secondary School, located in the buffer zone of Royal Manas National Park, a place also considered to be a hot spot for wild felids, particularly the tiger.

At a historic event held in St. Petersburg in Russia, the governments of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and conservation partners pledged their support to double
the remaining tiger population by the year 2022. TRC designated July 29 of every year as the Global Tiger Day.

In an effort to combat the pressing tiger issues, Bhutan along with 13 TRCs have been engaged to positively double the tiger populations by 2022, since the start of the tiger
year (lunar calendar) in 2010.

The tiger conservation effort is a national responsibility, and cooperation and coordination along similar efforts are made within the TRCs. Department of Forests & Park Services invited the Indian counterparts from across the border of Indian State of Assam, fourteen officials comprising of field director, wildlife managers, and scientist
and forestry officers joined the Bhutanese officials in observing the Global Tiger Day in Bhutan.

A cultural program by NFE and school children, interschool art and skit competition along with display of exhibits on tiger conservation and related activities were
showcased during the event.

The program was funded by the WWF-Bhutan Program, Wildlife Trust of India, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (WTI/IFAW), Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation and Royal Government of Bhutan.

The governments of several TRCs face major challenges in tiger conservation due to habitat destruction and illegal trade in tiger parts. Bhutan’s conservation policy recognizes the co-existence of humans and wildlife with the exception
that this close co-existence is not without conflict, as tigers often prey on livestock, thereby inviting retaliatory measures from subsistence farmers. To protect the tigers, the government have began offering cash compensation to affected farmers through community based livestock insurance and alternative livelihood practices, often in the face of severe resource constraints within the government.

The four subspecies of the tiger, the Bali, Caspian, and Java tiger became extinct in the 20th century, and many scientists believe the fourth, the South China tiger, has also become extinct, leaving only five, the Malayan, Indonesia, Siberian, Sumatran and the Royal Bengal tigers alive today. Of the 3,200 tigers alive today worldwide, about 150 are located in Bhutan.