Add another pest to the list of invasive species plaguing Cuba.
Like all such invasive pests, this one has spread quickly. Unlike other such pests, it was not brought to the island to solve Cuba’s 60-year-old food crisis.
This one snuck in for religious reasons, apparently, to be included in santeria rituals.
And unlike other invasive species, which have only posed threats to flora and fauna, this disease-carrier poses a serious threat to humans.
To top it off, this bugger — which is as large as a cat — is extremely difficult to eradicate.
The dysfunctional Cuban government has declared war on the pest, but given its colossal ineptitude and its lack of resources, as well as its track record in solving any problem whatsoever, its chances of eliminating this ecological disaster are extremely slim.
Oh, but wait… maybe General Guillermo García Frías can declare it a solution to the island’s hunger crisis, along with ostriches, rodents, and crocodiles…. Yeah, that would solve the pest problem and the hunger problem at the same time… For sure…and tourists would love it too: Escargot à la Changó … Yum!
In the past five years, the highly invasive African giant snail has become a veritable plague on the island, leading Cuban authorities to begin a campaign to eliminate the pest.
First detected in June 2014 in one of Havana’s peripheral municipalities, it can now be found in 12 of Cuba’s 15 provinces.
To help with the snail’s eradication, the government created the State Group for Snail Control, headed by the national directorate of plant health of the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI). It includes experts from the areas of public health, education, science, technology and environment.
The snail has not only spread in the agricultural area, but also in human settlements, sewage sites, river slopes and humid places, which all provide ideal living conditions for the snail, Ariel Castillo, public health deputy director, told reporters.
Castillo said that as the snail has spread throughout all its municipalities, a comprehensive action plan to control it has been worked out.
Because the damage “is still not considerable and has not affected large agricultural areas,” the snail cannot yet be considered an agricultural pest, Castillo said, although he did not rule out the possibility in the near future.
It is presumed that the animal was introduced to the island for the practice of Afro-Cuban religions and then spread thanks to its hermaphrodite characteristics that allow it to lay eggs three months after its birth and then every 60 days. One snail is able to deposit on land over 1,000 eggs in a year.
In Cuba, there are no other species that could be used as natural biological controllers of the snail, which has a life expectancy of about nine years.
The snail is a carrier of parasites, including strongyloides stercoralis, which poses a health threat to humans by transmitting deadly diseases such as meningoencephalitis and strongyloidiasis, among others.
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