Snails the size of footballs are sludging their way across the world, killing crops and carrying meningitis along with them. Known as giant east African snails, the invasive species has recently been discovered infiltrating Florida, nations in both Central and South America, and, most recently, Australia.
The specimens are rather terrifying, seeing as how they can grow up to a foot long, weigh in at over two pounds, are capable of eating over 500 different species, can lay 1,200 eggs a year, and have few natural enemies in their new habitats. Oh, and they can also transmit life-threatening meningitis to humans.
The BBC recently reported that “In tropical regions, giant African snails, as well as other types of slugs and snails, can carry a nematode – a kind of parasite – called the rat lungworm. These minute worms, if ingested, enter the circulation and travel to the brain, where they can lead to eosinophilic meningitis.”
Snails have been blamed for at least three deaths in Ecuador, and a hundred other cases have been reported across the region.
No wonder Australian authorities were pissed when they discovered one of the rogue snails stealing away from a shipping yard yesterday, presumably after hitching a ride on a cross-oceanic vessel from Africa—the last time the snails got loose, they went on a mini-rampage and caused a major headache for farmers.