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Updated: October 2, 2010 20:20 IST

When snails struck back

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor
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Chewing it up: Giant African snails feeding on the posters of a candidate in the
local body polls in Konni.
Chewing it up: Giant African snails feeding on the posters of a candidate in the local body polls in Konni.

It may be a coincidence but Raji Gopinath of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), candidate for the upcoming polls in the Konni block panchayat, is facing some trouble from snails, thousands of which had been destroyed by her snail eradication team a few months ago.

With Ms. Gopinath's poll campaign picking up pace, her wall posters are being gobbled up by the Giant African Snails, even as the posters of other candidates are left alone. The reason: the gum used for sticking the posters eaten by the snails is made of eco-friendly wheat flour but the other posters are stuck using chemical glue.

Ms. Gopinath has taken this fresh salvo in her stride and has yet another trick up her sleeve in the fight against the snails. She says the snail eradication drive would be intensified to protect the villagers. The snails have been plaguing Konni and the surrounding areas for the past two years. The situation has been worsened of late with the infestation spreading to more areas.

The first Giant African Snail (Achatina fluica) is believed to have been sighted in Konni in June 2008. Within a year, these creatures had swarmed many parts of the panchayat, threatening vegetation, including crops such as papaya, tapioca, plantain and coconut trees. The snails, which thrive in damp conditions, come out of their daytime hideouts during night. They build up their shells through calcium supplements from cement, lime and the like, says T.V. Sajeevan, a scientist at the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, who had conducted a study in Konni recently.

Mr. Sajeevan says these snails can go into hibernation for up to three years and come out when the climatic condition turn conducive.






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