Snail Situation Very Serious

“Currently, the snail situation now is a real serious one; they have become extremely active now that we have had rain for the past couple of weeks and so they have been rearing their heads in all of the infested areas.”

Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr. Janil-Gore Francis made these remarks following a meeting of the Giant African Snail Eradication Task Force which recently at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Headquarters.

Dr. Gore-Francis further announced plans to up the ante with regards to public awareness, as a collective and committed approach is crucial to rid the country of the Giant African Snail (GAS).

Apart from using the regular media outlets, the Chief Plant Protection Officer said that the Task Force is putting mechanisms in place to reach community groups, service organizations and all the constituencies, among others, with the snail eradication message.

“So what we are encouraging persons to do is to participate; it’s now everybody’s business; it’s now bigger than Plant Protection, it’s bigger than the Ministry of Agriculture and so we are encouraging communities to participate.”

Dr. Gore-Francis said that Plant Protection has been receiving many reports from persons who are doing their best to deal with the problem on their property, but their neighbours are not doing the same thing, which defeats the purpose.

She said if Antigua is to get anywhere with regards to getting rid of this snail problem, it must be done in a more holistic fashion and she is therefore encouraging persons in the various communities to come together to do collections.

In terms of management of the snails, Dr.Gore-Francis emphasized that safety is paramount.

She said persons handling the snails should use gloves or cover their hands with plastic bags.

“If you are using the gloves and they burst, you immediately change them but before you put the new ones on, you must wash your hands with warm soapy water and after you’ve finished collecting the snails, you would wash your hands with warm soapy water. You’ll ensure that when you are collecting, you are not touching your face, you are not touching any part of your body, because anything that the snail has in its slime could make its way into your body.”

The Chief Plant Protection Officer said that the most important thing is to remove the snails from the environment by picking them up.

She explains that depending on the snail bait alone will not work.

“A lot of people attempted to use the snail bait, however, we have seen that in using the snail bait, once the snail has eggs and it eats the bait and it’s dying, it’s going to lay those eggs and those eggs are viable; they can be hatched subsequently and grow into big snails and the problem gets bigger.”

Dr. Francis is encouraging persons to apply the bait according to the recommendations on the container.

“So you need to make sure you don’t have animals in the vicinity; you don’t have children that can come in contact with the bait, there is no water ways that can become contaminated,” Dr. Francis emphasized.

She appealed to members of the public who are in doubt to contact the Plant Protection Unit for advice or assistance.

She however is reminding the public that baiting is not necessarily the only and best thing to do, as it is a multi-faceted approach that must be applied.

It is better to collect the snails and put them in a container than pouring salt on them on the ground.

“Pick them up and put them in a container and then you add the salt to the container.  Because salt changes the PH, it alters the PH of the soil and it affects plant growth. In addition, it could become very expensive if you are going to be getting enough salt to put on each snail. So it’s best to pick them up, put salt on them in a container, cover it and leave it for a while and that salt will kill them,” Gore- Francis stated.

She said if a lot of snails are collected and it’s too much to dispose, persons can call Plant Protection for assistance for subsequent disposal at the Land Fill.

Gore-Francis recognized that a lot of people may have an issue with handling the snails due to fear, but apart from using a rake and a shovel; hand pickers can also be used.

She shared the scenario of one individual who placed his rotten fruits and mango in a pile in his yard and the snails gravitated towards that as a source of food.

This person according to Gore-Francis was able to collect the snails from that one spot. She said the main thing is removing the snails from the environment before they start to lay eggs.

High population of snails exists in the Woods area, Dunbars, Mount Pleasant and surrounding the McKinnons area and All Saints and a new area is in the Comfort Hall vicinity.

Gore-Francis said that she believes the message is reaching home to people, but some of those affected are fearful. She however warned that they should work on conquering that fear as the situation that could arise if this invasion of snails is not contained could be much worse.

“so you have to find a way; if you can’t do it, then you could get somebody to come and collect those snails; each individual homeowner has to play a role; we have to see this as something that we all have to deal with nationally because it can get worse if we think that what is happening now is bad.”

She encouraged service groups and other organizations to have this as a project and adopt an area where they can go out collect snails on a regular basis to reduce the population before it gets worse.

Dr. Gore-Francis said that apart from CMC, there are other outlets that carry snail bait such as Antigua Farm and Garden Supplies, GETCO, North Coast-Blue Waters Branch and Antigua Home and Garden Discount Center, where smaller packages can be obtained.

In the meantime, Gore-Francis noted that she was advised that people are also using these snails, which goes contrary to the policy of eradication.

“And that is something that we don’t advise that you continue to do; the national policy is for eradication and not use. It is illegal for you to be cultivating the snails and using them so that needs to stop because that goes contrary to what the national policy is and what we are trying to achieve at this point,” the Chief Plant Protection Officer concluded.