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Updated: July 28, 2011 02:02 IST

Giant snails threaten to conquer more areas in Kerala

K. S. Sudhi
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Giant African snail (Achatina fulica Rowtich).
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Giant African snail (Achatina fulica Rowtich).

Likely to infest at least 41 locations in four districts

Giant African Snails (Achatina fulica Bowtich) are likely to infest at least 41 locations in four districts in the State, according to a scientific prediction. Their presence has already been reported from 10 districts.

The Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi, Thrissur, has come up with a prediction after assessing 20 parameters in the areas from where severe attack of the invasive snail species was reported. The parameters to make a prediction model included, elevation from the mean sea level, precipitation during the wettest and coldest months, mean monthly temperature and maximum temperature during the warmest month, said T.V. Sajeev, the invasive species expert who led the KFRI team.

Experts have predicted 70 to 100 per cent possibility of the snails establishing themselves in these districts.

Palakkad has been identified as the most vulnerable district with the study predicting attack in 22 locations. Puthunagaram, Kodumbu, Peruvembu, Mundur, Puthuppariyaram, Marutha Road, Kannadi, Koduvayur, Chittur-Thathamangalam, Mathur, Pirayiri, Vadavannur and Thenkurissi are some of the vulnerable areas in the district.

Parali, Kuzhalmannam, Pallassana and Polppully are also susceptible to the attack.

In Kollam, Neendakara, Thrikkadavoor, Thekkumbhagam and Chavara are at risk, followed by Kochi Corporation area, Chellanam, Thripunithura, Njarakkal, Udayamperoor, Mulavukad and Elamkunnapuzha of Ernakulam district. The other areas in Kochi include, Cheranallur, Thiruvankulam, Nayarambalam, Maradu, Kumbalam and Kadamakkudy. Perumbalam and Panavally are the two vulnerable areas in Alappuzha district.

The researchers surveyed the State from Valiyathura in Thiruvananthapuram to Manjeswaram in Kasaragod in 2010 and located 29 distinct populations of the mollusc. Large populations were found in Konni in Pathanamthitta, Kolenchery in Ernakulam and Muzhupilangad and Parassinikkadavu in Kannur district. The presence of the pest has already been reported from Alapuzha, Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasaragod, Mahe, Malappuram, Palakkad, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts. Konni in Pathanamthitta was one of the worst hit areas.

The species has been listed as one of the “100 World's Worst Invaders.” The snails, which live up to six years in favourable conditions, feed on over 500 different plant species. This include some of the economically important plants like cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber and most types of beans, peas, cucumbers, melons, lichens, algae and fungi. The infestation was found to be intense in areas with high population density. Areas with untreated garbage and places of water logging are their favourite spots, Dr. Sajeev said.

Experts have recommended the use of calcium arsenate and Metaldehyde under expert supervision in areas of high infestation. However, they advise to desist from the use of salt to kill the pest as it alters the soil pH. The meat of the snails thus killed will rot with foul smell. Moreover, the application of salt will become untenable during rainy days, researchers said.

The African snail invation has moved much beyond tropical Kerala. I have come across them in my garden in New Delhi which tends to be dry for much of the year and cool for a couple of months in the winter.

from:  Ansgar
Posted on: Aug 29, 2011 at 15:36 IST

In 1990 while I was a Ph.D student I done research on this and I have used Mercuric chloride (HgCl2) to the tune of 1 ppm for controlling this mollusc. This land snail exposed to mercury toxicity showed profuse exudation of mucous and changes in protein occurred due to dehydrational effect of Mercury as a counter effect to fluid imbalance. The changes in sugar implied their utilization for energy derivation. Increased phosphatase activity may promote the mobilization of the metabolites, to meed out the substrate pressure due to toxic stress. The results of our study revealed that mercury chloride as a biocide upsets the tissue osmoregulatory mechanism and drains the energy metabolites of Achatina fulica. It can be applied as a molluscicide in 1 ppm concentration within 24 hours you can control this pest. It is more potent molluscicide is worthy of mention. My research paper is published in Nat.Acad.Sci.Letters,Vol. 15, No.10 1992 337-341. my mobile number is +91 9840574323

from:  Dr. Anbarasu Kamalakannan
Posted on: Jul 29, 2011 at 15:44 IST

What a moronic solution: to use calcium arsenate? I wonder if people who come up with these ideas have any basic education in any sciences - leave alone biology and chemistry. And then metaldehyde. We insist on using 18th century remedies for problems without any concern for public health and safety, and then frown on others who call us 'undeveloped'. Instead of finding alternative and safe remedies, our 'scientists' (and i use that term loosely) endanger public health because of their ignorance. It is totally unacceptable.

from:  Sivan K
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 20:20 IST

Point to note.. "The infestation was found to be intense in areas with high population density. Areas with 'untreated garbage' and 'places of water logging' are their favorite spots..." So it is entirely possible that human factors are contributing.. Lesson to learn.. starting with hygiene.. doing something about garbage and water logging problems could eliminate related issues as well (dengue, malaria etc)... oh but who are we kidding.. Indians are known worldwide for their cleanliness.. as is the perpetual smell of stool lingering about in the air.

from:  Laxman Pandit
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 16:40 IST

Iron phosphate is also being used as a pesticide to kill this snail. it seems better than the options listed in this article. but it is a serious threat indeed, and Florida has spent a million dollars to eradicate or control this pest!

from:  Girish Kumar
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 14:16 IST

Is the meat from this giant snails fit for human consumtion? as frog and crab is a delicacy in kerala, if these giant snails are edible then automatically they will dissapear from the fields and end up fried or roasted on the dining tables or toddy shops across kerala and if successful as a delicacy then may be we have to start farming for these giant snails then ???

from:  John
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 13:38 IST

Is it not possible to make these snails as food to fish in the fish-farms? Say, pick them crush their shell, put it in the tanks and ponds where fish is farmed. Snail-picking can give to job to some villagers under NREGA.

from:  KVSKumar
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 10:58 IST

"Experts have recommended the use of calcium arsenate under expert supervision in areas of high infestation." Calcium Arsenate is extremely poisonous to humans! It is banned in developed countries because it is so toxic.

from:  Jayesh
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 07:25 IST

I live in Perth, Australia and the snails are quite common here. I suggest Indian scientists contact Australian scientists to find out a quick remedy rather than allowing snails to multiply in great numbers and become a menace.

from:  Vishnu Kadekodi
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 05:24 IST

I hear it is edible. Why not export it or can it

from:  Ashok Visuvasam
Posted on: Jul 28, 2011 at 04:49 IST
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