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Ah, the innocence of children. So free of corruption and cynicism, so sweet and sincere. Laughing and playing and introducing supremely destructive monster snails to Florida, where the beasts eat almost anything that’s green and then crap all over houses — quite literally laying waste to whole neighborhoods.
the giant African land snail is a hermaphroditic love machine. “Snails have female bits and male bits,” explained biologist Robert Cowie of the University of Hawaii, “a single pore, through which if you’re acting as a male, a penis extrudes, or if you’re acting as a female, through which the other snail puts its penis in. And in some cases they can do it reciprocally.”
Thus the giant snail never meets another snail it can’t get busy with. Once fertilized, the snail will bury several hundred eggs a few inches below ground, and because of the incredible size of the species, the young will emerge far larger than native varieties, making them that much more resistant to predation.
this time, according to Cowie, it may well be “bizarre, voodoo-like religious proceedings” to blame. The snail’s slime, he says, is coveted in certain South American rituals, and practitioners may have released the giant snails into their Miami-area backyards, hoping they’d breed freely.
Florida agriculture officials have collected 137,000 giant snails in just over two years. Compare that to the relatively few 17,000 collected in the first eradication in the 1960s, and you soon see the magnitude of this problem.
Today, Miami is simply overrun with the things. Not only do the giant snails chow on some 500 economically important plants in the area, they’re devouring houses. It seems they have a taste for stucco, which contains precious calcium. Without a ready supply of the stuff to fuel their amazing growth, they’ll simply turn on each other — at least in captivity.
“A long time ago I had some African snails in the lab, in an aquarium-type tank,” said Cowie, “and apparently I wasn’t providing a sufficient source of calcium, and they would just eat each other’s shells. These snails produce big shells, they need a lot of calcium, and a lot of people these days when they keep snails they’ll put a bit of cattle bone in the terrarium for the snails to chew on, just to get the calcium.”
And because I know you were wondering: Yes, you can eat giant African land snails. But cook them well. I mean really well. Just boil them for a month. Grill them with napalm if you have it. Because like many snails and semi-slugs, this species carries the deadly rat lungworm.