Winning the snail battle

It appears Barbados is winning the battle against  the giant African snail.

Entomologist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ian Gibbs, has reported that infestation has declined significantly in many parishes, including      St Thomas which had recorded the highest level of infestation. It now stands at five per cent.

Ian Gibbs
Ian Gibbs

He made the disclosure during the question and answer segment that followed last night’s lecture by American entomologist Dr Trevor Smith on the giant African snail and other invasive species at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.

Giving an update on the status of Barbados’ eradication drive and the origin of the pest, Gibbs reported that 406 tonnes of snails were caught –– enough to fill 20 of the large trucks that transport canes.

But, in delivering the lecture, Smith warned that it was vital for the snail to be totally eradicated in Barbados.

“This type of snail threatens multiple crops in the Eastern Caribbean, resulting in a large but uncalculated drain on the agricultural sector. Snails also threaten the health of citizens as they are carriers of meningitis,” he said.

“In a time of decreasing crop yields due to changing weather patterns, the management and ultimate eradication of the giant African land snail is an important economic, agricultural, public health and environmental issue throughout the Eastern Caribbean region.”

The entomologist reported that the American state of Florida was the only place where the snail had been successfully eradicated.

Smith, who is on a lecture tour to Barbados and St Lucia –– the two countries in the region affected by the pest –– told his audience that in the two years since the giant African snail was discovered in that state, the Florida Agricultural Division eradication programme had found and eliminated hundreds of thousands of the pest and other invasive species.

He pointed out that because of their ability to transmit human and plant microorganisms that can cause disease, these snails have
been identified as a quarantine priority in the United States.

United States quarantine officials, Smith said, had been able to successfully intercept and eradicate incipient invasions in the United States, especially in Florida.

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