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.

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