KOCHI: The scourge of the slimy invaders returns in many places in the district. The African snails, a foreign species which had invaded the district around nine years ago, today can be found in around 10 of Kerala's 14 districts. According to experts, Kerala's climate has turned beneficial for these snails that reproduce prolifically. In Ernakulam, the plague of snails has affected places such as Eloor, Paravur, Kalamassery, Kakkanad and many other areas.
"These snails come out when it rains. They can be found everywhere," said Naushad P S A, a resident of Kalamassery. "Hundreds of snails could be found on the walls and open land after a heavy downpour. The vegetation, wells, utensils in the kitchen, pipes... these creatures can be found everywhere," he added.
According to him, the snails not only damage vegetation but also eat away the walls. "They need calcium for their shells so these pests can be seen nibbling away at the lime coating of the wall," he said. Imagine, greeted by the sight of a large number of slimy things clinging on to the vessels that you have washed and arranged inside the cabinets, said Naushad.
"These pests don't make their appearance in the summer. The heat doesn't suit them. But once it rains, it is like the gateway to a snail deluge has been opened," said PM Aboobacker, a councillor of Eloor municipality. He said these snails grow up to a length of 19 cm and can weigh as much as 750 gm.
"We have no idea as to how they came to our state. But since this is a foreign species, experts say they might have come hitchhiking on containers that are shipped across the continents," he said. Since it was first seen in Eloor, a hub of the container storage facility, the conclusion that this species came to our shores piggy-backing on them gains strength, said Aboobacker.
According to Naushad, these snails cause health problems. "Children are the ones who are in threat the most. They are curious and might pick these snails barehanded to investigate. Since health experts have said that these snails carry disease-causing agents, it becomes very important to keep the children away from these slimy pests," he said.
"When the African snails were on a rampage two years ago, the health wing of the corporation had sounded an alert warning that diseases such as meningitis can spread through these snails. They are also not edible," said Naushad.
According to him, most vegetables are all favourites of these foraging molluscs, he said. It is also very difficult to eliminate these snails, said Aboobacker. "Salt solution is the only antidote. However, even a single snail that gets overlooked can trigger a tsunami of yet another snail invasion. Being a hermaphrodite, one egg-laden snail (a snail carries up to 50 eggs) can start afresh population," he said.
To destroy them
Kerala Forest Research Institute has found that first attracting the snails with vegetable waste and then a point application of tobacco decoction and copper sulphate mixture can destroy the snails. Other methods employed include throwing the snails on hard surfaces to crush their shells, drowning them in saline water, sprinkling salt and lime mixture, salt and bleaching powder mixture or use of molluscicides.
Dos and Don'ts
Don’t touch snails without proper gloves. Stay away from snail secretions.
Wash vegetables to clean any snail secretions and excretions
Boil water before drinking since snails can be found on the inner walls of the wells
African snail is not edible