It sounds like the plot of a horror B-movie. But for the people in South Florida, it has become a reality. They are fighting against a plague of giant snails.

At 8 inches, the achat snail, also known as the African land snail, grows to be the size of a rat. And when it searches for food at night, it devours everything in its path, including fruit, road kill, rocks, stucco, plaster and even car tires.

Contact with these critters can be dangerous for humans because, like ticks, they can transmit Menegitis. These giant snails have no natural enemies and reproduce at an alarming rate. They can grow to be 9 years old and lay 1200 eggs per year. In Florida they have become a serious threat.

In 2010, officials began investigating Charles Stewart, a man who practices the African religion Ifa Orisha. Stewart was accused of using the snails in his rituals and investigators say an African woman brought them to him by sneaking the snails under her dresses on flights to Miami.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently announced that since September 2011 they have collected over 117,000 of these snails, and every week they catch 1000 more.

At this point there seems to be only one solution to avert a catastrophe: exterminating as many of these snails as possible as quickly as possible. Owning or releasing one of these snails into the wild is now punishable by law.


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