Florida officials have been battling the Giant African Snail invasion for close to two years, and they now think they have a new weapon to use against them – Labrador retrievers.
Yup, that’s right, Labrador retrievers. According to the Huffington Post, state agriculture authorities say they hope the dogs will add to their success in fighting an infestation of the slimy snails.
According to MSN, on Wednesday, officials said that since the start of an aggressive extermination campaign they have collected 128,000 of the snails.
The Giant African Snail can reportedly grow as big as a rat and devour plants as well as stucco and plaster when they are looking for the calcium they need to grow their large shells.
“We see a lot of strange things in Florida and this one makes the top of the list,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “It is a very serious pest.”
Putnam said that $6 million has already been spent to eradicate the giant snails.
State officials have also stated that they believe the snails were introduced to Florida by a Miami Santeria group, a religion with West African and Caribbean roots that was found in 2012 to be using the snails in its rituals.
Not only is this giant snail becoming a problem for residents, but they are also raising health concerns.
According to the Huffington Post, the snails can carry a parasitic rat lungworm that can cause illness in humans. The illnesses could include a form of meningitis, thought no cases have yet been identified in the United States.
Because the Giant African Snail has no known natural predators, state officials are hoping that the Labrador retrievers can help in their efforts.
Why Labrador retrievers? The giant snails give off a strong odor that dogs can be trained to detect.
“They’re very good at detecting the Giant African Land Snail,” said Richard Gaskalla, the head of plant industry at the Florida Agriculture Department. “So we’re building four-legged technology into this program as quickly as we can.”
The first to join the eradication effort is a Labrador retriever by the name of Bear, who is currently wrapping up three-months worth of training specifically for this task.
These Labrador retrievers are the next big hope in the efforts to eradicate the invading Giant African Snail.